Blast hits Syrian bus convoy near Aleppo

At least 39 people were killed and many others were injured in an explosion that hit near buses carrying evacuees from a besieged area of government loyalists. Video from a local reporter on the scene shows multiple buses burned out and many bodies. A war monitor puts the death toll at 24 in the area controlled by opposition fighters.

The explosion was caused by a auto bomb, according to Syrian TV and the opposition Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, who put the death toll at 24 and said it would likely rise.

The villagers were being relocated as part of a deal to aid those living in areas under siege. The rebel group Ahrar al-Sham condemned the bombing.

The blast hit buses in the Rashidin area on Aleppo's outskirts, which had been waiting to cross from rebel-held territory into the government-controlled city itself, carrying people evacuated from two Shiite villages on Friday.

The deal involving the evacuees targeted on Saturday has been beset by delays, and the 5,000 Fuaa and Kafraya residents had waited in Rashidin for more than a day without moving before the bomb went off, an AFP correspondent said. He said it is not clear what hinders the completion of the evacuation.

He said the area was walled off from all sides and there were no toilets. "All these thousands of people are stuck in less than half a kilometre (500 yards)". My house, land and belongings are all in al-Foua", Mehdi Tahhan said.A Madaya resident, speaking from the bus garage inside Aleppo, said people had been waiting there since late on Friday, and were not being allowed to leave."There's no drinking water or food.

Rami Abdurrahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, says the Syrian government and rebels who negotiated the deal have differed over the evacuation of gunmen from the towns.

Also Saturday, an Iraqi military statement said the Syrian air force has carried out a series of airstrikes against Islamic State group militants inside Syria, with one killing a leading member of the group in Raqqa, the IS de facto capital. Afandar said people were not allowed to leave the buses for a while before they were let out. But during the last minute, the government and rebels disagreed over the number of gunmen to be evacuated, the buses were left stuck at two separate parts, and adjacent parts of the city.

Syrian state TV blamed the rebels for obstructing the deal, causing thousands of evacuees to be stuck in bus depots overnight.

A resident of Zabadani - another rebel-held town to be evacuated - Amer Burhan says no evacuation had even taken place from there.

  • Jon Douglas