Tue, 10 Dec 2019

Damascus [Syria], Nov 12 (ANI): At least seven people were killed and 70 others sustained injuries when three car bombs exploded nearly simultaneously in the largely Kurdish city of Qamishli in northeastern Syria near the Turkish police.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday's blasts, in which two car bombs exploded in a commercial district of the city, and a third detonated near a hotel, according to Syria's state news agency SANA.

The attacks came the same day an Armenian Catholic priest and his father were killed by unknown gunmen as they travelled to the eastern province of Deir Az Zor from Qamishli, where they were meant to inspect the restoration of a church, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the killing, saying its fighter shot dead two priests. The Islamic State-linked Aamaq news agency posted a copy of the priest's identity card with his photo and name on it.

Islamic State had persecuted Christians and displaced tens of thousands of them when it ruled large parts of Iraq and Syria.

Christians made up about 10 per cent of Syria's pre-war population of 23 million.

Qamishli is located in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in Syria's northeast. The area recently rekindled as a hotspot after US President Donald Trump abruptly withdrew American troops last month.

The withdrawal cleared the way for an offensive by the Turkish military attempting to establish a "safe zone" along the border and dispel members of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara considers "terrorists".

The YPG led the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an important US ally in defeating ISIL in Syria.

Kurdish forces said Turkey's cross-border attack, which began on October 9, allowed some ISIL fighters to break out of Kurdish jails.

While the SDF declared in March that ISIL had been defeated in a final stand in the village of Baghouz, members have continued to claim deadly attacks in northeast and eastern Syria.

In July, ISIL said it was responsible for a massive truck bomb that killed at least 44 people in Qamishli.

An October 23 ceasefire deal between Turkey and Russia halted Ankara's campaign into Syria in exchange for Kurdish forces' withdrawal from areas along the Turkish border.

On Sunday, eight people were killed in a bomb blast to the southeast of the Syrian town of Tal Abyad, which Turkey captured in its military offensive last month. While no group claimed responsibility, Ankara blamed the attack on Kurdish fighters. (ANI)

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