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String of car bombs kills 20 people in Turkish-held north Syria

The attacks left at least 14 civilians dead, including four children, and scores wounded
Rescue workers extinguish a fire caused by an explosion in the town of Azaz, in rebel-controlled northern countryside of Syria's Aleppo province, on 31 January 2021 (AFP)

Three car bombs killed at least 20 people including 14 civilians in Turkish-held northern Syria in the past 24 hours, according to local sources.

An attack on Sunday near a cultural centre in the town of Azaz killed six civilians including a young girl, the head of the Syrian Civil Defence group in Northern Aleppo, Ibrahim Abu al-Laith, told Middle East Eye.

He added that the attack also wounded 25 people and caused severe damage to shops and vehicles parked in the area.

In a second incident on Sunday, a suicide car bomb targeted a checkpoint of the Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) near the town of Al-Bab, in northern Aleppo, killing six fighters and wounding four, according to Seraj al-Shami, a local activist. 

On Saturday, a car bomb in the Turkish-controlled city of Afrin, in northern Syria, killed six people including three children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based war monitor, said.

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The bomb blew up in a neighbourhood where workshops are located, killing the children, two other civilians and an unidentified person, it said.

Observatory chief Rami Abdurrahman said the death toll could rise, as 29 others were wounded, some of them severely.

The United Nations deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis, Mark Cutts, condemned the attack. 

"I strongly condemn this attack - the latest in a series of indiscriminate attacks on civilians. These attacks must stop," he wrote on Twitter.

Turkey, which is allied with some rebel groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is in control of the areas where the explosions occurred.

Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies seized territory in the region in an offensive in 2019 against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which holds areas of north and east Syria.

Turkey regards the YPG as a terrorist group tied to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) inside its own borders. 

Areas of northern Syria held by Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies are regularly rocked by such bombings.

There is usually no claim for them, although Turkey routinely blames Kurdish fighters linked to the PKK.

Syria's war has killed more than 387,000 people and displaced millions since starting in 2011 with Assad's brutal repression of anti-government protests.

The dead include more than 130,500 pro-government fighters, among them foreigners.

Since March 2019, more than 1,300 Syrian soldiers and allied pro-Iranian militiamen and over 600 IS fighters have been killed, according to the Syrian Observatory.

Reuters and AFP contributed to this report.

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