Opposition activists in Syria say government warplanes bombed a gasoline station near Damascus Wednesday, reportedly killing dozens of people as they waited for fuel.
Activists say the strike occurred in the eastern suburb of Mleiha — an area partly under rebel control. The blast ignited a huge fire which sent black smoke billowing into the air. Amateur video posted online showed dismembered bodies at the scene.
Residents frequently line up for hours at a time at gasoline stations across Syria, since the country has been suffering from a fuel shortage brought on by the nearly two-year fight between rebels and President Bashar al-Assad's government.
Meanwhile, the opposition says the two sides are waging a fierce battle near an airport in the northern province of Idlib, a day after similar clashes prompted officials to close the airport in Aleppo.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels launched the attack on a military airport near Taftanaz. The group says Islamist militant groups are involved in the fighting. There was no immediate confirmation from the government.
Separately, the French news agency reported that armed men in northern Syria kidnapped one of its freelance contributors six weeks ago.
The family of U.S. journalist James Foley — who previously had asked media groups to not report the abduction — asked Wednesday for his release.
AFP says Foley last supplied the agency with video material the day before he disappeared. The agency quoted witnesses as saying four men picked up the reporter in the town of Taftanaz on November 22. So far, no one has claimed responsibility.
A brutal civil war between rebel groups and the Assad government has shaken Syria since evolving from peaceful anti-government protests in March 2011.
U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay said on Wednesday that the conflict has killed at least 60,000 people.