A bomb attack on a packed bus convoy near Aleppo killed at least 68 children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) monitoring group said Sunday.
The overall death total from Saturday’s attack climbed to at least 126, and the final number killed is expected to rise, SOHR said. It is the deadliest such incident in Syria in nearly a year.
The blast ripped through a group of buses carrying about 5,000 Shi’ite residents of the villages of al-Foua and Kefraya in Idlib province, which rebel forces have placed under siege. Opposition leaders had allowed the villagers to evacuate as part of a deal with the Syrian government to give 2,000 people, including rebel fighters, safe passage out of a town near Damascus that is surrounded by government troops.
The blast occurred just west of government-controlled Aleppo, at a checkpoint where the handover of evacuees was supposed to take place. Witnesses say a car loaded with food drove up to the convoy and detonated as passengers approached it, the BBC reported.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which pro-government media said was carried out by a rebel suicide bomber. Anti-government forces fighting under the Free Syrian Army denied responsibility for the blast and called it a “treacherous terrorist attack,” Reuters reported.
In an Easter Sunday message, Pope Francis said the bus bombing was a “vile attack on fleeing refugees.”
“May [God] sustain the efforts of those who are actively working to bring comfort and relief to the civilian population in beloved Syria, who are greatly suffering from a war that does not cease to sow horror and death,” Francis said.
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