Syrian TV says dozens killed in blast near evacuation buses

Apr 17, 2017, 05:32

At least 100 people were killed Saturday when a blast in southern Aleppo hit buses ferrying Syrians evacuated from two besieged regime-held towns, a civil defense official said.

The explosion Saturday hit at an evacuation point south of Aleppo city where dozens of buses have been parked for over 30 hours as a much criticized population transfer deal stalled.

Pro-Damascus media outlets said a suicide attacker detonated a vehicle bomb and killed at least 22 people.

Rami Abdurrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the Syrian government and rebels who negotiated the deal have differed over the evacuation of gunmen from the towns.

In footage aired on Syrian TV, bodies, including fighters, were seen lying alongside buses, some of which were charred and others gutted from the blast.

"They were residents of two besieged Shia minority villages, who'd been besieged by rebels for years".

But a delay in the agreement had left all those evacuated stuck at transit points on Aleppo's outskirts since late on Friday.

Thousands of evacuees from Madaya and Zabadani were also stuck in regime-controlled Ramusa, south of Aleppo.

Rescuers say at least 100 people were killed from opposition and government supporters. The group said the attack only serves to deflect the attention from government "crimes" and said it was ready to cooperate with an worldwide probe to determine who did it. They circulated a statement on social media imploring "international organizations" to intervene so the situation did not escalate.

The transfer agreement is one of several over recent months that has seen President Bashar al-Assad's Government take back control of areas long besieged by his forces and their allies.

A senior Russian diplomat says the United States and Russia are again exchanging information on a hotline created to prevent midair incidents over Syria, but that the formal agreement on such exchanges has not been renewed. Critics say the deal amounts to "demographic engineering".

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who hosted his Iranian and Syrian counterparts at Friday's trilateral meeting in Moscow, denounced last week's US attack on Syria and warned that any further such action would entail "grave consequences not only for regional but global security".

The exact reasons for the delay in completing the evacuation deal were also unclear.

A Facebook page belonging to the pro-government al-Foua and Kfraya villages said all those in three buses were killed or were still missing, while a rebel official said at least 30 opposition fighters who were guarding the evacuees were killed in the blast.

A pro-opposition activist said insurgents blamed the delay partly on the fact that a smaller number of pro-government fighters had left the Shiite villages than was agreed.