Over a dozen people, including children, have lost their lives and several others sustained injuries when a car rigged with explosives went off in Syria’s northern province of Raqqah.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the car bomb exploded on Saturday at a busy marketplace in the center of the border town of Tal Abyad, located about 500 kilometers (310 miles) northeast of the capital Damascus.
The Britain-based war monitor added that at least 14 people were killed and 21 injured in the terrorist attack. It noted that Turkish-backed militants from the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) were among the dead and injured in the car explosion.
The Turkish Defense Ministry, however, put the death toll at 13, saying some 20 others were also injured in the attack.
Ankara blames Kurdish militants
The Turkish Defense Ministry “harshly” condemned the attack and blamed Kurdish militants for the explosion in a post on Twitter.
Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin also pointed the finger at the YPG.
Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also said in a tweet that the attack “should serve as a lesson to those who provide shelter to YPG terrorist organization and justify its actions. This heinous attack proves once again how right and timely #OperationPeaceSpring was.”
No group has yet taken responsibility for the attack.
The development took place only two days after a car bomb went off in Syria’s northwestern city of Afrin, leaving at least nine people dead and 30 others injured.
According to witnesses and a rescuer, the explosion took place at a busy market in the mainly Kurdish city near the Turkish border, which is controlled by Ankara-backed militant groups.
Tal Abyad has been the scene of heavy fighting ever since the Turkish military and its allied militants launched a cross-border incursion last month against militants from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
On October 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, signed a memorandum of understanding that asserted YPG militants must withdraw from the Turkish-controlled “safe zone” in northeastern Syria within 150 hours, after which Ankara and Moscow will run joint patrols around the area.
The announcement was made hours before a US-brokered five-day truce between Turkish and Kurdish-led forces was due to expire.
On October 9, Turkish military forces and Ankara-backed militants launched a long-threatened cross-border invasion of northeastern Syria in a declared attempt to push YPG militants from border areas.
Ankara views the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984. The YPG constitutes the backbone of the Kurdish-dominated so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).