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Attacks kill 27 in Syria capital, rebel stronghold

By AFP - Oct 20,2021 - Last updated at Oct 20,2021

This handout photo released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows a charred Syrian army bus, that was targeted with explosive devices in the Syrian capital Damascus on October 20, 2021. (AFP photo)

DAMASCUS — A rare bombing of an army bus in Damascus and shelling shortly after of a town in rebel-held northwest Syria killed at least 27 people Wednesday, in the deadliest flare-up in months.

Two bombs planted on an army bus in central Damascus were detonated early in the morning, killing 14 people, in the worst such attack in the capital in four years, state news agency SANA reported.

There was no immediate claim for the bombing, but government shelling shortly after killed 13 people in Idlib province, parts of which are controlled by groups that have claimed such attacks in the past.

"A terrorist bombing using two explosive devices targeted a passing bus" at a key bridge in Damascus, the state news agency said, reporting that at least three people were wounded.

Images released by SANA showed first responders searching the charred carcass of the bus and what it said was a bomb squad defusing a third device in the same area.

SANA quoted a military source as saying the bombs were detonated as the bus passed near the Hafez Al Assad bridge, close to the national museum in the heart of the capital.

"We hadn't seen violence of that type in a long time," a fruit vendor who gave his name as Salman told AFP at the scene.

"We thought we were done with such attacks. I hope this will be the last bombing."

Idlib carnage 

Damascus had been largely spared such violence in recent years, especially since troops and allied militias retook the last significant rebel bastion near the capital in 2018.

The attack is the deadliest in Damascus since a bombing claimed by the Daesh terror group targeted the Justice Palace in March 2017, killing at least 30 people.

Around an hour after Wednesday’s attack, Syrian army shelling struck the rebel-held town of Ariha in Idlib province.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rockets struck a busy area as students were heading to school.

Four children were among 13 people killed, the Britain-based war monitor said.

It was the highest civilian toll since a March 2020 truce deal brokered by Turkey and Russia effectively put fighting in Idlib on standby, the observatory said.

“At 8am (0500 GMT) we woke up to the bombardment. The children were terrified and were screaming,” said Bilal Trissi, a father of two who lives nearby.

“They bombed us in our neighbourhood and in the market. There are children who died and people who lost their limbs... We don’t know why, what are we guilty of?”

The UN children’s agency condemned the shelling, calling it a “reminder that the war in Syria has not come to an end”.

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