Syria bombing kills 15 people ahead of Eid
BEIRUT // A car bomb in a rebel-held town in northwestern Syria killed at least 15 people and wounded dozens in a crowded outdoor market on Monday, setting cars on fire and sending people running in panic, activist groups said.
The attack came as US Secretary of State John Kerry and the UN-Arab League envoy for Syria said that an international conference to set up a Syrian transitional government must be organised urgently and held as soon as possible.
The bomb went off in the town of Darkoush in Idlib province, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees. The marketplace was busy with shoppers on the eve of Eid.
The Observatory put the death toll at 27, while the Committees said 15 were killed. There was no claim of responsibility.
Mr Kerry, meanwhile, and the joint UN and Arab League envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, discussed the so-called “Geneva II” conference that the UN would like to hold in mid-November.
“There has to be a transition government, there has to be a new governing entity in Syria to permit the possibility of peace,” Mr Kerry said.
“There can be, there will be, a political solution if everyone gets together and works for it,” Mr Brahimi said. “Very soon we have to set a precise date.”
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva confirmed that three of its employees and one from the Syrian Red Crescent were released, a day after being kidnapped by gunmen in Idlib province. The fate of three other ICRC employees who were also kidnapped on Sunday was not immediately known.
The Observatory and a local activist in Idlib said the aid workers had been seized by an the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, a group linked to Al Qaeda. But there was no claim of responsibility.
The intensity of the conflict, which has left more than 100,000 dead, has not abated in the past two weeks — even as inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons press on with their work to destroy the country’s chemical weapons stockpile.
The watchdog agency won a Nobel Peace Prize last week, in a powerful endorsement of its Syria mission.
Ahmet Uzumcu, head of the OPCW, said on Monday that inspectors have so far visited five of at least 20 sites linked to chemical weapons. The BBC quoted him as saying that one abandoned site was in rebel-held territory and that in other cases, routes went through opposition-controlled areas, preventing access.
The mission stems from a deadly August 21 attack on opposition-held suburbs of Damascus in which the UN determined the nerve agent sarin was used. Hundreds of people were killed, including many children. The West says the Syrian government was responsible, while Damascus blames the rebels.
Monday marked the date that Syria formally joined the OPCW.
In an interview with the Lebanese Al Akbar newspaper, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad was quoted on Monday as saying that his country stopped manufacturing chemical agents in 1997 because they became an “outdated deterrent”. He said Syria has since concentrated on its missile capabilities.
Updated: October 14, 2013 04:00 AM