Islamic State attack killed at least 75 displaced Syrians

 05 Nov 2017 - 15:56

Islamic State attack killed at least 75 displaced Syrians
A picture shows the damage in the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor during a military operation by government forces against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists on November 4, 2017. AFP / STRINGER

AFP

Beirut: A car bombing by the Islamic State group killed at least 75 displaced people in eastern Syria, a monitor said Sunday, as the cornered extremists appeared to target fleeing civilians.

Saturday's attack in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor killed "at least 75 displaced civilians including children" and wounded 140, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The scale of the attack showed that despite losing vast swathes of territory it held in Iraq and Syria, the group is still capable of mounting deadly attacks.

Abdel Rahman said "a new convoy of displaced people joined the gathering at the time of the attack".

The displaced had fled battles in the province, where Syrian regime forces and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), are fighting the jihadist group in separate offensives.

The Britain-based war monitor, which relies on a network of sources on the ground inside Syria for its information, reported Saturday that dozens had died in the bombing.

Fighting across Deir Ezzor province has sent thousands of civilians fleeing for their lives, some straight into the desert.

Syrian and allied forces converged Saturday on holdout IS fighters in the border town of Albu Kamal, the jihadists' very last urban bastion after Russian-backed regime forces seized Deir Ezzor city on Friday.

The jihadists, who in 2014 declared a "caliphate" spanning territory in Iraq and Syria roughly the size of Britain, have also lost most of the territory they once controlled in neighbouring Iraq, including second city Mosul.

On Friday, Iraqi forces retook the border town of Al-Qaim, also on the Euphrates river.

Hundreds of thousands fleeing 

Many of the remaining IS fighters are believed to have fled across the border to Albu Kamal, also in Deir Ezzor province and the ultimate goal of an intensifying Syrian regime campaign.

Aid group Save the Children estimates that some 350,000 people have fled the recent fighting in the oil-rich province, half of them children.

Some of those displaced had sought refuge in a desert area controlled by the SDF, a Kurdish-Arab alliance, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River where the Saturday bombing struck, the Observatory said.

It was not the first attack attributed to IS against civilians fleeing Deir Ezzor.

On October 12, a car bombing in the northeastern province of Hasakeh killed at least 18 people, including displaced people and Kurdish security forces, the Observatory said.

The jihadists have been repeatedly accused of targeting those attempting to flee during fighting.

The United Nations on Thursday said the group had executed 741 civilians in the battle for the Iraqi city of Mosul, accusing it of "indiscriminate targeting of civilians trying to flee the city".

The Euphrates Valley border area was the heart of IS's so-called caliphate and is now its last redoubt, where a US-led coalition supporting the military effort said around 1,500 jihadist fighters remained.

Despite being driven out from large parts of Deir Ezzor, IS still controls 37 percent of the province and its fighters are deployed in the eastern side.