Suicide attack in northeastern Syrian city kills 7

AP News
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Posted: Sep 15, 2015 1:45 PM

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — A suicide car bomber struck in a predominantly Kurdish city in northeastern Syria on Tuesday, killing seven people, a day after twin car bombings in the same city killed at least 32, including 19 civilians.

Also on Tuesday, insurgents shelled five government-held neighborhoods in the northern city of Aleppo, killing 20 people and wounding 100, Syrian state media said.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for Tuesday's deadly suicide blast in the mostly Kurdish city of Hassakeh, saying it targeted an office of the main Kurdish militia in Syria. Monday's car bombs in Hassakeh were also swiftly claimed by the IS group, which controls large parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq.

Syria's state news agency SANA said a suicide attacker blew up his truck in front of the water authority building in Hassakeh's northwestern neighborhood of Maaeshiyeh. It said the blast killed seven and wounded 21.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on local activists, said the blast killed seven people, including five Kurdish fighters. It said the blast targeted a position of the main Kurdish militia, known as the People's Protection Units, and also wounded 30 people, including some fighters.

Syrian Kurdish fighters are largely in control of Hassakeh, which also has pockets held by government forces. IS militants have been battling the Kurdish forces and government troops in the city and surrounding province for months.

The Observatory said the shelling in Aleppo, which came amid intense clashes in Syria's largest city and onetime commercial center, killed 21 people, including seven children, and wounded 70, adding that the death toll is expected to rise since some were seriously wounded. Discrepancies in accounts of casualties are common in the immediate aftermath of large attacks.

Aleppo has been divided since 2012, with government forces controlling much of western Aleppo and rebel groups in control of the east.

The conflict in Syria has killed more than 250,000 people since it began in March 2011, according to U.N. figures.

Also Tuesday, 26 powerful Syrian rebel factions issued a statement indirectly rejecting a plan put forward by U.N. special envoy Staffan de Mistura to try end Syria's conflict.

The rebel groups, including the powerful Ahrar al-Sham and Islam Army, said in the 12-point statement that President Bashar Assad and top officials in his government should not have any role in the future of Syria or during the transitional period.

The U.N. envoy's plan made no specific mention of Assad's future role in Syria.

"This is a main condition to move forward in any political process," said the rebel statement, carried by several pro-opposition websites.

The groups also said that Iran, Assad's main regional backer, should be distanced from any talks on Syria because "it is involved in the bloodletting" in the country. And mentioning Russia's wider involvement in Syria, the group said "this endangers efforts for a political solution."

Last month, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a statement backing intensive preparatory talks on key issues to restore peace to Syria, a sign of possible change in the U.N.'s most powerful body which has been deeply divided over how to end the war.

The Security Council endorsed in mid-August a plan announced by de Mistura and aimed at setting the stage for new peace talks to end the civil war. It includes talks on a political transition leading to democratic elections and how best to fight terrorism.

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Mroue reported from Beirut.