Syria border town bombing – At least 46 killed

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At least 48 people, mostly civilians, were killed in a bomb attack Saturday in the northern Syrian town of A’zaz, near a border crossing with Turkey, a monitoring group said.

The blast, from a tanker truck loaded with explosives, hit the rebel-held town’s Islamic law court, leaving dozens injured, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights added.

The fatalities included 14 rebels and court guards, the watchdog said.

The observatory earlier put the toll at 43.

Local opposition sources said the courthouse was located in a marketplace.

Activists in the town said that several dead bodies were charred beyond recognition because of the powerful bombing that also caused havoc.

A’zaz is controlled by rebel groups, many of which are also involved in an ongoing Turkish-backed campaign against the Islamic State extremist organization in nearby areas of Aleppo province.

The opposition sources, who asked not to be quoted by name, said rebels had captured and defused a second explosive-rigged vehicle near another border town in the region.

Islamic courts in rebel-held areas of Syria are often controlled by or are close to locally dominant rebel factions.

There was no claim of responsibility for the bombing.

In the past, A’zaz saw several deadly attacks, some of them were claimed by Islamic State.

The radical group is known for launching car bomb attacks on facilities of rival forces.

Elsewhere in Syria, Kurdish-led forces fighting against Islamic State have closed in on the country’s main dam on the Euphrates River, Kurdish media and the observatory said Saturday.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) took the village of Suwaydiyeh al-Saghireh, a few kilometres from the Tabqa dam, on Saturday morning, the Observatory reported.

The Tabqa dam is located about 40 kilometres west of Islamic State’s de facto Syrian capital of al-Raqqa, the focus of the SDF campaign.

The dam, the largest in Syria, plays a key role in the country’s electricity generation as well as irrigation of the Euphrates valley, one of Syria’s main agricultural areas.

The nearby city of Tabqa, officially known as al-Thawra, holds a strategic position on the approaches to al-Raqqa south of the Euphrates.

Syrian government forces also attempted a move towards Tabqa in June last year, but were beaten back in an Islamic State counter-offensive.

The area has been fully controlled by Islamic State since August 2014, when it overran Tabqa airport and massacred its isolated government garrison.

dpa