Skip to main content

Nearly 70 children killed in Syrian bus attack, say reports

Blast hit the Rashidin area on Aleppo's outskirts, where dozens of buses carrying mostly Shia residents of two villages were being evacuated
Syrian children wounded in a suicide car bombing that targeted their buses in Rashidin (AFP)

The death toll has risen to at least 100 in the bombing of a bus convoy waiting to enter the Syrian city of Aleppo on Saturday, according to Syria's White Helmets rescue organisation. 

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 126 people have been killed, including 68 children, and that the death toll is expected to rise.

The blast hit the Rashidin area on Aleppo's outskirts, where dozens of buses carrying mostly Shia residents of two villages that are being evacuated in a deal between warring sides were waiting to enter the city.

The Pope, in his Easter Sunday message to followers at St Peter's Square, condemned the attack as "ignoble".

"May [God] in a particular way sustain the efforts of those who are actively working to bring healing and comfort to the civilian population of Syria, the beloved and martyred Syria, who are victims of a war that does not cease to sow horror and death," he said.

"Yesterday's was the latest ignoble attack on fleeing refugees."

Syrian rescue workers the Civil Defence said that they had taken away at least 100 bodies from the site of the blast, which hit buses carrying Shia residents as they waited to cross from rebel into government territory in an evacuation deal between warring sides.

A military media unit run by Damascus ally Hezbollah said a suicide attacker had detonated a car bomb near the convoy.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, though the key Ahrar al-Sham rebel group denied any involvement. The government blamed "terrorists" - a catch-all term for its opponents.

Mohammad Darwish, a doctor who has been evacuated from Madaya, witnessed the explosion, and said he was worried about government retaliation.

"We are worried about the reaction of the regime for what happened," he told MEE.

"So we ask the UN and ICRC and all the humanitarian organisations to protect us."

A cloud of black smoke rises from where the car bomb was detonated (Reuters)

Pictures posted on state media showed what appeared to be the aftermath of the explosion, with bodies lying on the ground and fires belching out thick black plumes of smoke. Buses were blackened by the blast with their windows blown out. 

"The suicide bomber was driving a van supposedly carrying aid supplies and detonated near the buses," the Observatory said.

The residents evacuated from two Shia villages near Aleppo alongside hundreds of pro-government fighters had left the two rebel-besieged villages in northwest Idlib province under a deal whereby, in exchange, hundreds of Sunni rebels and their families moved out of a government-besieged area near Damascus.

A delay in the agreement had left all those evacuated stuck at two transit points on Aleppo's outskirts since late on Friday.

Residents of Fua and Kafraya, the Shia 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.