Middle East

Syria war: Many dead in IS attack on displaced people's camp

An injured man is treated at a hospital in Hassakeh, Syria (2 May 2017) Image copyright AFP
Image caption People injured in the attack were taken to hospitals in the provincial capital of Hassakeh

More than 30 civilians and Kurdish-led fighters have been killed in an attack by Islamic State (IS) militants near Syria's north-eastern border with Iraq.

They targeted a makeshift camp for displaced Syrians and Iraqi refugees at Rajm al-Salibi, near the town of Shaddadi in Hassakeh province.

The militants also clashed with members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) stationed at a nearby checkpoint.

IS said the attack was one of several targeting "apostates" around Shaddadi.

The jihadist group is coming under mounting pressure in northern Syria from the SDF's Kurdish and Arab fighters, who are supported by the US, and from pro-government forces in neighbouring Iraq.

The SDF has driven IS militants out of much of Hassakeh and is close to taking control of the strategically important Euphrates River Valley town of Tabqa.

It will soon launch an offensive to retake the city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the "caliphate" proclaimed by IS after the fall of the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2014.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, reports that at least five IS suicide bombers blew themselves up outside and inside the camp at Rajm al-Salibi, east of Shaddadi, at dawn on Tuesday.

At least 38 people were killed by the bombings and subsequent clashes, among them 23 civilians, and 30 other people were wounded, it adds.

According to Syria's official Sana news agency, more than 30 civilians were killed and 34 wounded. It did not say whether there had been any suicide bombings.

The Kurdish Red Crescent put the civilian death toll at 22.


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SDF fighters took wounded civilians to hospitals in the city of Hassakeh. Several were admitted to intensive care due to the severity of their injuries, according to medical sources cited by Sana.

An IS statement said six groups of militants had attacked SDF positions in Shaddadi and its surrounding area on Tuesday, including a "barracks" near Rajm al-Salibi, killing and wounding dozens of people.

An Iraqi army source told the BBC the militants had also abducted dozens of civilians during the attack on the camp.

It was not possible to verify the report. However, a similar allegation was made by the head of the Iraqi parliament's human rights committee in an interview with Beirut-based al-Mayadeen TV and Sana cited some of those injured as saying they had lost contact with dozens of their relatives.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption There are several camps for refugees and displaced people along Syria's border with Iraq

About 300 families were waiting at Rajm al-Salibi - where conditions are harsh and there is little shelter - to be screened and allowed to enter SDF territory.

They included Syrians from Raqqa and Deir al-Zour provinces, as well as some of the thousands of Iraqis who have fled to Syria from Mosul since October.

As a result of the attack, approximately 400 people are being relocated from Rajm al-Salibi to another camp at al-Hawl.