Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Dozens killed in attack on Syrian mosque

Some wounded sent to Jordan as area hospitals overwhelmed

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BEIRUT -- A car bomb blew up outside a mosque in a rebel-held village in southern Syria as worshippers were leaving after Friday prayers, killing dozens of people and filling clinics and hospitals with the wounded, anti-government activists said.

The explosion in Yadouda charred vehicles parked nearby and damaged the mosque, video images posted by activists who are fighting to oust President Bashar Assad show.

Yadouda is in the southern province of Daraa, the birthplace of the uprising against Assad that began with peaceful protests in March 2011 and morphed into a civil war that has killed more than 130,000 people.

The motive for Friday's blast could not immediately be determined, and activists provided varying death tolls ranging from 29 to 43. State-run TV confirmed the bombing but said only three people were killed.

Car bombs have frequently been used by Islamic extremists, both against the government and against moderate rivals in the Sunni-led opposition movement. Government forces also have been known to use explosive-packed vehicles and the two sides frequently trade blame in attacks targeting mosques.

An activist in the nearby region of Quneitra, Jamal al-Golani, said the car bomb killed at least 29 people of which 18 were identified. He gave The Associated Press a list of the names of the identified men who were killed.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which uses a wide network of local activists to track violence in the country, said 32 people were killed, including a child and 10 rebels.

Another activist in Daraa, Ahmad al-Masalmeh, gave a death toll of 43. He said the car bomb blew up next to a tanker truck filled with diesel causing a large fire and burning "some bodies beyond recognition." The mosque is known as Ammar bin Yasser, although some people refer to it as al-Baraa bin Thabet, al-Masalmeh said.

Clinics in the village and nearby areas were full of wounded people and there were calls over loudspeakers for residents to donate blood. Al-Masalmeh added some of the wounded were taken across the border to Jordan for treatment.

"Hospitals are overwhelmed with the wounded," the man said via Skype.

Earlier Friday, the United Nations paused the evacuation of civilians from the embattled Syrian city of Homs, a senior UN official said, while the government screened military-age men who had left the area.

Meanwhile, near Lebanon, Syrian forces and rebels clashed over the strategic town of Yabroud, causing hundreds of people to flee over the border.

The pause in evacuations came just a day after a ceasefire was extended for three more days in Homs. Hundreds more civilians are believed to still be trapped in a rebel-held medieval quarter known as Old Homs.

World Food Program director in Syria Matthew Hollingworth told the AP by telephone from Damascus several dozen men who left Old Homs during earlier evacuations were being held in a school elsewhere in the city and being questioned by Syrian authorities. UN officials were present at the school, he said.

Also Friday, Syrian troops and rebels clashed around the rugged hills surrounding the town of Yabroud -- the last rebel stronghold in Syria's mountainous Qalamoun region.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 15, 2014 A24

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