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45 dead in attacks as Syrian Kurds marked new year

UN chief condemns the 'heinous' attacks in Syria's northeastern city of Hasakeh, which are suspected of being carried out by IS militants
A procession of cars brings the bodies of three Kurdish fighters from the (YPG) for burial on 27 August, 2013 in the Syrian-Kurdish town of Derik, in Syria's northeastern Hasakeh governorate (AFP)

The death toll from attacks on Kurdish new year celebrations in Syria has risen to 45, including five children, a monitor said on Saturday, accusing the Islamic State group of responsibility.

"There are now 45 dead from last night's attacks in Hasakeh, as most of those who were in critical condition passed away," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, after reporting 33 killed on Friday night.

Two explosions struck as members of Syria's Kurdish community celebrated on the eve of Nowruz, the Kurdish new year, in the northeastern city of Hasakeh.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility on Friday, but Rami Abdel Rahman of the Britain-based Observatory told AFP the IS group was behind the attacks.

According to him, the explosions were a few hundred metres apart from each other, with at least one of them caused by a suicide bomber inside a vehicle.

The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) control Hasakeh city, but IS militants have launched attacks on towns nearby.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the "heinous" attacks, while the commander of the Kurdish security forces, Joan Ibrahim, said "the crime that occurred today in Hasakeh will not pass without retribution."

"Initial reports suggest that two separate bombings killed and injured up to 100 persons, including women and children," the UN secretary general said in a statement following the attacks.

"These heinous attacks took place during a holiday that is customarily a time for Kurdish communities to come together to share their hopes for the new year."

Ban said he "takes note" of the allegations that IS were behind the attack, and condemned the militant group. 

"The terrorist organisation's despicable agenda includes efforts to incite sectarian and ethnic division among Syria’s diverse communities. It must not be allowed to succeed," he said.

Hasakeh is a strategic province near Syria's borders with Iraq and Turkey.