Car bomb kills at least 39 Syria evacuees

At least 16 people were killed Saturday in a suicide auto bombing near buses carrying Syrians evacuated from two besieged government-held towns, a monitor said.

The huge vehicle bomb on Saturday came as a much criticised population transfer deal stalled as the government and rebels bickered over who should be evacuated. They circulated a statement on social media imploring "international organisations" to intervene so the situation did not escalate.The evacuation deal 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.The deals are unpopular with the Syrian opposition, who say they amount to forced displacement of Assad's opponents from Syria's main urban centres in the west of the country.They are also causing demographic changes because those who are displaced are usually Sunni Muslims, like most of the opposition.

A senior rebel official said 20 rebels who guarded the buses were killed as well as dozens of passengers.

The blast took place near an area where buses carrying almost 5,000 people from Foua and Kfraya, villages in northern Syria was besieged by rebels, Associated Press reported.

A Madaya resident, speaking from the bus garage in Aleppo, said people had been waiting there since late on Friday night, and were not being allowed to leave.

This frame grab from video provided by the Thiqa News Agency, shows rebel gunmen at the site of a blast that damaged several buses and vans at the Rashideen area, a rebel-controlled district outside Aleppo city.

Earlier on Saturday, at the transit point where the buses from al-Foua and Kefraya were waiting, one resident said he was not yet sure where he would live.

People who were evacuated from the two villages of Kefraya and Foua wait near buses, after a stall in an agreement between the opposition and Syrian regime army, at Rashideen.

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

The evacuees from Madaya headed to rebel-held Idlib, west of Aleppo.

"When I first went onto the bus, I broke down from sadness, I fell on the ground and they had to help me", said Fuaa resident Abu Hussein.

Syria's war has left more than 320,000 people dead since erupting in 2011, with more than half the population forced from their homes and hundreds of thousands enduring siege-like conditions. He accused the government or extremist rebel groups of orchestrating the attack to discredit the opposition. Yasser Abdellatif, a member of the powerful Ahrar al-Sham group which negotiated the deal, said at least 30 rebels were killed in the explosion. They were evacuated Friday, along with more than 2,000 from Madaya, a town outside of Damascus which was besieged by government forces. They were being evacuated as part of a population transfer that had stalled as government representatives bickered with rebels. "They were evacuating under a deal contingent on residents of two pro-rebel towns being allowed to evacuate".

  • Leroy Wright