Update: Death toll from car bomb in Syria’s Al-Bab rises to 51

Published February 25th, 2017 - 06:24 GMT
Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters take position during their advance in the city of Al-Bab, 30 km from the Syrian city of Aleppo. (AFP/File)
Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters take position during their advance in the city of Al-Bab, 30 km from the Syrian city of Aleppo. (AFP/File)

A car bomb claimed by the Islamic State killed at least 51 people in Syria's northern city of al-Bab on Friday, a day after a Turkish-backed operation seized the area from Islamic State militants, a monitoring group reported.

A suicide bomber detonated the vehicle outside a Syrian rebel command centre in Suesian, north of al-Bab city.

"There are 34 civilians among the dead," said Rami Abdel-Rahman, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency said as many as 60 people died and dozens were injured in the attack that it blamed on Islamic State.

The Islamic State-affiliated Amaq News Agency, quoting a security source, said that a suicide attacker carried an attack on a "security institution in Suesian ... killing eight Turkish soldiers, 60 rebels and wounded 100 others."

The attack destroyed two Turkish military vehicles, the Amaq report added.

Video footage from the targeted area showed injured people lying on the ground, amid burning cars and motorbikes. Both civilians and fighters appeared among the bodies.

Ambulances were dispatched from a Turkish border town, just 30 kilometres to the north, to evacuate some of the wounded.

Abdel Rahman said a second blast also rocked an area 20 kilometers away from Suesian, but it was not immediately known if it was a mine explosion or another suicide attack.

Meanwhile, two Turkish soldiers were killed and three others were injured after an explosion during search operations in al-Bab. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim confirmed the deaths.

Islamic State put up fierce resistance to the Turkish-led operation. Hundreds of Syrian rebels died in the fighting along with dozens of Turkish troops.

Hundreds of civilians were also killed, including in Turkish airstrikes and shelling. The city is badly damaged.

Operations to take al-Bab from Islamic State began in November and suffered several setbacks, as the militants used landmines, exploding cars and tunnel networks, according to Turkish sources. Islamic State has now fully retreated.

"The militants who were inside al-Bab have withdrawn to areas south-east of al-Bab," Abdel-Rahman of the Syrian Observatory said. The area was the last urban stronghold of Islamic State in north-west Syria.

Turkey's military issued a statement saying al-Bab was under its control. Turkey now controls 1,925 square kilometres in northern Syria, while allied forces in adjacent territory control an additional 300 square kilometres, the statement noted.

Al-Bab is being closely watched as Turkey weighs its next steps inside Syria. Ankara sent forces over the border in August last year. The Syrian government deems the presence an occupation.

Turkey says it killed hundreds of Islamic State fighters, though the numbers cannot be verified.

Meanwhile, Kurdish fighters and Arab allies in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), supported by the United States, are continuing operations to seize areas around al-Raqqa, the Islamic State's de facto capital in Syria.

Turkey is angered by the US alliance with the Kurds, but analysts say the SDF is the most capable local force ready to move on the Islamic State's key city. It remains to be seen if Turkey will follow through on pledges to attack SDF.

By Weedah Hamzah and Shabati Gold

© 2021 dpa GmbH

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