Bomb blast on bus convoy kills, wounds dozens outside Syria's Aleppo
BEIRUT - Reuters
REUTERS photoA bomb blast hit a bus convoy waiting to enter Aleppo on April 15, killing and wounding dozens of people after an evacuation deal between Syria's warring sides halted and stranded thousands at two transit points on the city outskirts.
Pro-Damascus media outlets said a suicide attacker had detonated a car bomb and killed at least 22 people. Images posted by the outlets showed bodies lying next to charred buses with their windows blown out, and flaming vehicles belching out thick black smoke.
British-based monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights counted 24 dead and dozens more wounded.
The blast hit buses in the Rashidin area on Aleppo's outskirts, which had been waiting to cross from rebel-held territory into the government-controlled city itself, carrying people evacuated from two Shi'ite villages on April 14.
The residents, alongside hundreds of pro-government fighters, had left the two rebel-besieged villages in northwest Idlib province under a deal where in exchange, hundreds of Sunni insurgents and their families moved out of a government-besieged area near Damascus.
But a delay in the agreement had left all those evacuated stuck at two transit points on Aleppo's outskirts since late on April 14.
Residents of al-Foua and Kefraya, the Shi'ite villages, were waiting in the Rashidin area. The rebels and residents of Madaya near Damascus were waiting at the government-held Ramousah bus garage, a few miles away. They were to be transported to Idlib province, which the armed opposition controls.
The agreement 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 Observatory said the delay was caused by the fact that rebels from Zabadani, another town near Damascus included in the deal, had not yet been granted safe passage out.
A pro-opposition activist said insurgents blamed the delay partly on the fact that a smaller number of pro-government fighters had left the Shi'ite villages than was agreed.
Earlier on April 15, 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.
"After Aleppo I'll see what the rest of the group is doing, if there are any preparations. My house, land and belongings are all in al-Foua," Mehdi Tahhan said.