Teenage bomber kills opposition 'minister' and 12 others in southern Syria
AMMAN - A teenage suicide bomber, believed to be linked to the Islamic State group, killed a "minister" in Syria's opposition government-in-exile as well as at least 12 other people in the south of the country on Thursday, local sources told Middle East Eye.
"I saw a boy aged about 15 or 16, went quickly to the police station which was opened today, then a huge explosion shook the area and killed more than 13 people," Abu Shadi an eyewitness told MEE.
"Dozens more were wounded in the town of Inkhil," he said. The town is some 40 kilometres north of Daraa, the main city in southern Syria. Apart from a small government-held pocket in the heart of the city, Daraa has been in rebel hands for years, but rebel groups there have increasingly come under pressure from IS.
Shadi al-Jundi, a spokesperson for the National Coalition opposition body, also told the AFP news agency that at least 12 people, including the (opposition) provisional government's local administration minister, Yaacoub al-Ammar, were killed with dozens more were wounded. He initially blamed the blast on a car bomb, but a number of local reports have since contradicted this, while blaming IS for the attack.
Ammar was head of the Daraa provincial military council, created in 2012.
The attack targeted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a local police station in Inkhil, in Syria's southern province of Daraa.
The victims included "opposition figures, rebels, and local officials", Jundi said.
"In this afternoon a number of prominent figures in Daraa met in Inkhil," Mohammad Alshalabi, a local journalist told MEE.
"They including the president of the court in Daraa, the ministers of local administrations as well as the economy minister in the Syrian interim government.
"There were also a number of military leaders and some civilians in the town of Inkhil in the countryside of Daraa, to inaugurate the opening of Inkhil police station."
Alshalabi said that a number of local witnesses saw a teenage boy enter the station before the blast went off.
"The attacker who blew himself up was carrying an explosive belt. He was 15 years old and quickly broke into the place where the [ceremony was taking place]," he said.
"Security agents tried to stop him but he managed to blow himself on the spot."
The self-styled government-in-exile National Coalition was formed in 2012 in Doha and has links to the Free Syrian Army, which is fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Daraa was the cradle of Syria's uprising in 2011, when demonstrators took to the streets to call for Assad's removal.
The conflict has since evolved into a brutal multi-front war that has killed more than 300,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes.
This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.