On Friday, at least 68 people were killed and several others injured mostly civilians in twin attacks near a Syrian town just captured by Turkish forces and Syrian opposition fighters from the Islamic State group, as the group retreats from one of its last remaining strongholds in northern Syria.
In the first blast, a suicide bomber detonated his car in the village of Sousian into a security checkpoint controlled by rebels fighting under the Free Syrian Army (FSA) banner. At least 60 people, mostly civilians who had gathered to return home to the town liberated from IS only a day earlier, were killed. At least 6 fighters were among those killed.
“These people have suffered a lot,” Mohammed al-Tawil, a leading Syrian opposition fighter north of al-Bab told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Sousian. “They have been waiting for this moment” to return home.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitor of the war based in Britain, said more than 50 people died including over 30 civilians. Two rebels contacted by Reuters put the total death toll at at least 60.
One of the two, a fighter with the Sultan Murad Brigade near al-Bab, said: “It was done on a checkpoint but there were a lot of families there gathered and waiting to get back to al-Bab. Therefore we have many civilian casualties.”
Al-Tawil, a member of the opposition al-Bab military council, said about four fighters manning the checkpoint were killed in the attack. Al-Tawil, who was at the security office at the time of the explosion, said the rest of the casualties were civilians from al-Bab.
Al-Bab, which had been controlled by IS since late 2013, was captured on Thursday, after more than two months of intense fighting led by Turkish troops supporting Syrian opposition fighters.
Hours later, a second explosion was reported south of al-Bab, where two Turkish soldiers were killed, Turkey’s military said. The military said the two soldiers were killed when an explosive device went off as they were removing land mines.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said the soldiers were killed when an explosive device went off near Tadif, an IS-controlled town south of al-Bab. But the Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, however, called the explosion a “suicide attack.” It was not immediately possible to reconcile the accounts.
The second blast came as rescue teams and local residents were retrieving bodies of those killed in the earlier bomb attack.
Injured Syrians are being treated at a hospital across the border in the Turkish town of Kilis. Many of them are in serious condition.