Car bomb kills at least 39 Syria evacuees

The blast hit buses in the Rashidin area on Aleppo's outskirts.

At least 39 were killed following a vehicle bomb attack on buses carrying evacuees from government-held towns in Syria.

The deal had stipulated that in the first stage 8,000 people, including 2,000 loyalist fighters, leave the two towns but in the event just 5,000, including 1,300 fighters left, the Britain-based Observatory said.

Rami Abdurrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the Syrian government and rebels who negotiated the deal have differed over the evacuation of gunmen from the towns. The bomber reportedly drove the explosives in a van meant to carry aid right up to a convoy of buses.

As diplomacy in Moscow focused on the USA airstrikes targeting the country, over 2,350 people were bussed out of the twin towns of Madaya and Zabadani near Damascus.

A major Syrian rebel group says many of its members were killed in a blast that hit an evacuation gathering point of government supporters, saying it will cooperate with an global probe to determine the culprits.

Thousands of evacuees from Madaya and Zabadani were also stuck in government-controlled Ramusa, south of Aleppo. The New York Times points out that "jihadist groups, like the Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda, have a presence in the area and consider Shiites apostates who should be killed".

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One of those stranded is Ahmed Afandar from Madaya who has described the situation as "disastrous".

A senior rebel leader said 20 fighters who guarded the buses were killed as well as dozens of passengers. He said it is not clear what hinders the completion of the evacuation.

Amer Burhan, 50, the director for Zabadani's field hospital, said he expects the young fighters in Zabadani to join the fronts in northern Syria to resume fighting government forces.

"They of course wanted to beat the Sunni rebels into submission", said Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

Other evacuation deals in recent months have included areas of Aleppo and a district in the city of Homs. Most of the towns' combined population of 26,000 will leave or have already left for Aleppo, Syria's largest city and a government stronghold. A United Nations inquiry said the evacuation of east Aleppo amounted to a war crime because it was coerced through the joint Russian and Syrian government campaign against the city's civilian infrastructure. "All these thousands of people are stuck in less than half a kilometre (500 yards)".

A pro-opposition activist said insurgents blamed the delay partly on the fact that a smaller number of pro-government fighters had left the Shi'ite villages than was agreed.

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