At Least 48 Killed as Car Bombs Strike Syria

Posted October 3rd, 2012 at 1:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Four coordinated explosions on Wednesday ripped through a government-controlled section of Syria's largest city, Aleppo, killing dozens of people and wounding nearly 100 others. The blasts gutted a military officers' club and a nearby hotel.

Opposition groups say at least 48 people died, mostly from the security services, while Syrian state media put the death toll at 31.

Meanwhile, a mortar fired from Syria hit the southeastern Turkish border town of Akcakale. Turkish media say five people, including a mother and her three children, were killed when the shell landed in a residential area. At least nine others were seriously wounded.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to brief him about the developments in Akcakale.

In Aleppo, the Syrian government and its opponents said three of the blasts were car bombs that targeted Saadallah Jabri Square, near a hotel that residents said housed pro-government militiamen. A fourth explosion detonated close to the nearby Chamber of Commerce.

Aleppo has seen increased fighting recently between the government and rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad. In the past few days, large areas of the city's ancient covered market were burned as fighting spread to previously stable districts.

A pro-government television station broadcast video it said was the aftermath of the blasts. The images show extensive damage to several buildings with piles of rubble lying the street.

State media blamed “terrorists” for the bombings.

Rebels fighting to overthrow Mr. Assad last week announced a new offensive in Aleppo, Syria's commercial hub, but neither side has appeared to make significant gains so far. The city is now split in two with Assad's forces mainly in the west and rebels in the east.

Meanwhile, VOA's Scott Bobb traveled to the Bab al-Salama camp for internally displaced Syrians, located just a few kilometers from the Turkish town of Killis. He said about 6,000 Syrians have fled to the camp in the last month.

“This upsurge occurred about a month ago when the bombing intensified by the Syrian air force on basically defenseless towns and civilians in northern Syria. People [were] just panicked and traumatized and decided to get out.”

Bobb said the mostly Sunni civilians initially fled to Turkey, but large numbers are now forced to wait at Bab al-Salama until space becomes available in the Turkish refugee camps. As Turkish officials let in hundreds of people each day, more arrive constantly from deeper inside Syria.

“So its a constant influx of hundreds, maybe up to a thousand a day at this one point. Multiply that by half a dozen or more crossing points in northern Syria and you can see why the United Nations is calling it a major catastrophe in waiting.”

The joint United Nations-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi is set to return to the region next week as he tries to revive efforts to end the 18-month conflict.

U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said Tuesday that Brahimi will be based in Cairo. He also said the U.N. wants to see a reduction in violence from Mr. Assad's government, followed by similar efforts by the opposition.