Oil truck bombing in Syria’s Afrin kills at least 40, including 12 children

At least 40 civilians lost their lives, including 12 children, and dozens more wounded as the blast from a truck bomb ripped through a popular market in the northern Syrian city of Afrin, local sources said on Tuesday.
author_image Hisham Arafat

AFRIN, Syria (Kurdistan 24) – At least 40 civilians lost their lives, including 12 children, and dozens more wounded as the blast from a truck bomb ripped through a popular market in the northern Syrian city of Afrin, local sources said on Tuesday.

The explosive device was apparently attached to an oil tanker and was detonated as it drove through the market, where hundreds of people were shopping, an activist living in Afrin told Kurdistan 24 on condition of anonymity.

He added he witnessed more than 35 ambulances and other medical vehicles carrying the dead and wounded and heading in the direction of several of the city's hospitals.

“So far, more than 40 civilians were killed and about 45 were injured, including about 8 Kurdish civilians,” he added. “The rest are among the Arab settlers who were brought to the city by the Turkish army.” 

Four fire trucks headed to the explosion site to extinguish blazes in the market, but were unable to control them, the Syria-based war monitor Afrin Post reported.

No party has yet credibly claimed the responsibility for the incident.

Afrin has been controlled by a Turkish-backed Syrian militia, often known as the Syrian National Army (SNA), since March 2018 when the Turkish army launched its cross-border offensive on the Afrin region to target the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) which had been prominent in the area since 2012.

Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist organization and an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group that has waged a decades-long insurgency against Turkey for expanded Kurdish rights.

The Turkish state-run TRT and Anadolu news agencies accused the YPG of carrying out the explosion, while activists in the city claim they were planned by the Turkish-backed groups with the aim of spreading confusion and panic among the indigenous Kurdish residents of Afrin as part of a greater anti-Kurdish program of ethnic cleansing. 

Anadolu Agency reported that Turkish state security "arrested a suspect who brought the booby-trapped tanker to the site of the explosion."

On April 19, six civilians were injured in an explosion that occurred near a recently-established bridge in the center of Afrin city that was caused by another vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBEID) that was attached to a Suzuki car.

Read More: Car bombing injures civilians in north Syria's Kurdish-majority city of Afrin

On April 8, another oil tanker explosion injured three civilians in Afrin's Ashrafiyah neighborhood.  

Multiple human rights organizations and media outlets have documented a large number claims that, since the occupation of Afrin began in March 2018, Turkish-backed armed groups have regularly committed various violations and war crimes, primary among them ethnic cleansing, kidnapping, extortion, murder, rape, and the looting and destruction of property.

In February 2019, the United Nations’ Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria released a report charging that armed groups in Afrin were guilty of war crimes including “hostage-taking, cruel treatment, torture, and pillage.” It stated that “the most common violations perpetrated in Afrin involved frequent abductions by armed groups and criminal gangs.”

Read More: UN report suggests Turkish-backed groups commit war crimes in Afrin

As recently as early March of this year, the commission again released evidence that it had found reasonable grounds to believe that the militias “perpetrated the war crime of murder and repeatedly committed the war crime of pillaging, further seriously contravening the right to enjoyment of possessions and property.”

Currently, over 100,000 residents are still estimated to be in the area, living under the harsh security and economic conditions that they have faced since Turkey took control of the Kurdish-majority region.

Editing by John J. Catherine