Car bomb kills at least 39 Syria evacuees

Posted April 16, 2017

A Syrian bus convoy transporting the residents of two villages being evacuated in a deal between warring parties has been hit by a blast on the outskirts of Aleppo, according to SANA news agency. The Syrian government and rebels began a coordinated population transfer Friday of about 10,000 people from four towns besieged for years amid the country's bloody, six-year civil war.

They were evacuated Friday, along with more than 2,000 from Madaya, a town outside of Damascus which was besieged by government forces.

Madaya resident Amjad al-Maleh, speaking from a departing bus, told Agence France-Presse that rebels among the evacuees had been allowed to keep light weapons.

Thousands were leaving Madaya and Zabadani, including more than 2,000 rebel fighters, their families and other civilians, the monitoring group said.

Residents from Kefraya and Foua were to be transferred government-controlled Jibrin, while those from Madaya and Zabadani were heading towards the rebel-held Idlib province.

US-backed fighters have reached the outskirts of a key jihadist-held town in northern Syria as part of an offensive against the Islamic State group's bastion Raqa, a monitor said Saturday.

BEIRUT (AP) - Syria TV says at least 22 people were killed in an explosion that hit near evacuation buses in northern Syria.

Mr Afandar said people had not been "pressured" to remain on buses amid reported disagreements between regime and rebel negotiators over the evacuation of fighters.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 24 in the area controlled by opposition fighters.

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Pictures posted on state media showed what appeared to be the aftermath of the explosion, with bodies lying on the ground and fires belching out thick black plumes of smoke.

Backed by Russian Federation and local militias, pro-government forces have made a string of recent gains.

The explosion was caused by a auto bomb, according to Syrian TV and the opposition Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, who put the death toll at 24 and said it would likely rise.

The explosion came as frustration was already mounting over the stalling evacuation process. "All these thousands of people are stuck in less than half a kilometre (500 yards)".

But thousands were stuck on the road Saturday in rebel-held Rashidin, west of Aleppo.

Syrian state TV says a vehicle bomb has exploded near buses carrying Syrians evacuated from towns besieged by rebels in northern Syria.

The population transfer deal has been criticized by opponents as forced displacement and was not overseen by the United Nations.

A resident of Zabadani, another rebel-held town to be evacuated, reportedly said that in last few days no evacuation has taken place from there.