Middle East

Syria conflict: Raqqa air strikes 'kill dozens'

Aftermath of what activists said was a Syrian government air strike near the Raqqa museum on 25 November 2014 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Activists said a popular market near Raqqa's museum was among the targets of the air strikes

At least 36 civilians have been killed in air strikes by Syrian government warplanes on the Islamic State-held northern city of Raqqa, activists say.

Most of the casualties were caused by two strikes in quick succession on an industrial area, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

One opposition activist network said more than 80 people had died.

Syrian government and US-led coalition aircraft frequently bomb Raqqa, which IS has made into a stronghold.

Activists say most of the casualties from the raids have been civilians.

'Regime massacre'

The Syrian Observatory said Tuesday's air raids had targeted a popular market near Raqqa's museum as well as the industrial area where two explosions caused most of the casualties.

"The first strike came, residents rushed to rescue the wounded, and then the second raid took place," the organisation's director, Rami Abdel Rahman, told the AFP news agency.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Several children were among those killed, according to activists
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption One air strike destroyed the minaret of one of the city's mosques

The Local Co-ordination Committees meanwhile said that a total of nine government air raids on Raqqa had left 87 people dead, including several children. Dozens of people were also wounded.

A video posted online by a pro-IS media group, Amaq, showed firemen dousing several burning cars with water, and medics placing several bodies into the back of an ambulance.

"This is one of the ugliest regime massacres in Raqqa to date," Abu Ibrahim al-Raqqawi, a Moscow-based activist who oversees the group Raqqa is Being Silently Slaughtered, told the Associated Press.

On 6 September, 53 people were killed in air strikes on the city, among them at least 31 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Raqqa has been bombed by Syrian government and US-led coalition aircraft in recent months

Raqqa is the only provincial capital to have been lost by the government since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in 2011.

Western-backed and Islamist rebel groups fought for control of the city after seizing it in March 2013 before Islamic State ousted them in January.

The jihadist group made Raqqa the capital of the caliphate it proclaimed in June and governs it according to a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

The US and its Arab allies have been conducting air strikes on IS positions in Raqqa and elsewhere in northern and eastern Syria since September. An IS headquarters building outside Raqqa was targeted twice between Friday and Monday, according to the US military.

Meanwhile in Iraq on Tuesday, Islamic State militants reportedly blew up the al-Nasir convent in the northern city of Mosul.

The convent's nuns fled Mosul along with most other Christian residents when it was overrun by IS and allied Sunni rebels in June.