Middle East

Syrian town of Azaz hit by deadly car bombing

The Syrian town of Azaz was rocked by a car bomb on Sunday night, killing at least 14 people and injuring dozens, said the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

Four children were also among those killed in the explosion, which took place near a mosque. “Many people were leaving evening prayers when the explosion happened,” SOHR head Rami Abdul Rahman told the AFP news agency.

Read more: Hunting Bashar Assad’s henchmen in Syria

The blast occurred after the “iftar” meal that breaks a daylong fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The attack came a few days before Muslims celebrate the end of the holy month with Eid el-Fitr, one of Islam’s most important feasts.

It was not clear who was behind the attack. Azaz has been hit by similar attacks in the past. The town is held by Turkish-backed Syrian rebels, who control a strip of territory along the frontier between the countries.

Azaz adjoins the enclave in northwest Syria that is the only major territory still held by groups fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad. The area has been the target of a government offensive since late April.

The rebels’ enclave is dominated by the jihadist Tahrir al-Sham group, the latest iteration of the former al-Qaida affiliate, the Nusra Front.

Syria Azaz map

Unrelenting attacks

Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016 and seized more than 2,000 square kilometers (772 square miles) in northern Syria, including Azaz, clearing the area of jihadists affiliated with the “Islamic State,” (IS) while preventing any Kurdish advance in the region.

Ankara still keeps Turkish troops and intelligence forces in the area.

The bombing in Azaz came a day after a similar explosion killed 10 people and wounded 20 in the northeastern city of Raqqa, which previously served as IS’ de facto capital.

IS fighters have repeatedly carried out attacks across northern Syria in areas held by insurgents and by Kurdish-led forces.

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