ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – More than a dozen people were killed or injured in an explosion that rocked the northwestern Syrian city of Afrin now occupied by Turkish-backed militias, local sources said on Friday.
An explosive-laden vehicle was detonated near a popular local restaurant, killing at least three people and wounding ten others, a security source from the area told Kurdistan 24.
Another source said these numbers were early estimates and that casualties were likely to rise, as is often the case with such incidents. The blast caused significant damage to the site and the surrounding area, locals reported.
According to media close to the Kurdish-led autonomous administration in northern and northeastern Syria, the explosion occurred on the road to the town of Rajo, about 25 kilometers northwest of Afrin.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
Afrin has been under the control of Ankara-backed rebels since March 2018, after driving out the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), who lead the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), from the area. Since then, the city has witnessed increased violence and insurgent attacks.
In late January, an explosion rocked a base held by a Turkish-backed Islamist group, with three reported to have been killed. Just days earlier, a blast targeted a local bus near the Kawa cross-road inside the city, with initial reports indicating that three people had been killed while twelve others injured.
On Wednesday, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria has said that it found reasonable grounds to believe that Turkish-backed armed groups occupying Afrin continued “to commit the war crimes of hostage-taking, cruel treatment, torture and pillage.”
In February, the commission first accused the forces of war crimes. A new report highlights the dire security situation that remains in the city.
Since the occupation of Afrin in March 2018 by Turkey and its proxy forces, civilians have fallen victim to multiple hostile or violent actions, including widespread demographic change.
“Local residents consistently described chaotic security conditions, a general absence of the rule of law and repeated cases of kidnappings, abductions, torture, extortion and assassinations,” read the report.
The victims of armed groups and gangs were “often of Kurdish origin, as well as civilians perceived as being prosperous, including doctors, businesspersons and merchants.”
Editing by John J. Catherine