A bomb blast at a Syria-Turkey border crossing has killed at least 29 rebel fighters and wounded at least 20 more, witnesses and a monitoring group reported.
Thursday’s blast took place on the Syrian side of the Atmeh crossing, west of Aleppo. A photo sent by a witness in the area, purportedly of its aftermath, showed bloodied corpses lying on the ground, the Reuters news agency reported.
Most of the rebels were from a Turkey-backed group called Failaq al-Sham, Reuters reported witnesses as saying.
“Atmeh is a border crossing that [Syrian] rebels use to move from one area of northern Syria to another; because, as of late, the [Syrian] government cuts through their territory and they’ve been isolated in different pockets,” al Jazeera reported.
“We understand that they were waiting to cross the border [when the explosion happened]. There are conflicting reports as to what caused the explosion, but ISIS has claimed responsibility for it,” the report added. “So the rebels are coming under pressure, not just from the government, but from ISIS as well.”
A Syria-based group, the Local Coordination Committees, said the blast was caused by a bag filled with explosives that went off on the Syrian side of a border crossing.
Turkey’s state-run Anatolia news agency confirmed that the blast left at least 20 people dead at Atmeh, adding that it took place during a “change of guard” among Syrian rebels in the area.
Turkey is backing the rebels in an offensive against the Islamic State (ISIS) further to the northeast, along a separate stretch of border.
Ankara began the cross-border Operation Euphrates Shield on August 24, saying it was targeting both ISIS and the Kurdish YPG militia, which Turkey considers a “terrorist” group.
Rebel fighters have been targeted at the Atmeh crossing before. ISIS claimed responsibility for a mid-August suicide attack there that killed at least 32.
The rebels use the crossing to move between the Syrian province of Idlib, through Turkey, to areas of Aleppo province along the border where the fight against ISIS is taking place, the Syrian Observatory said.