Press Trust Of India
Damascus, 14 October
A powerful car bomb killed at least 20 people in Syria’s Idlib today, a day after gunmen abducted seven Red Cross aid workers in the northwestern province.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the blast in the town of Darkush killed at least one child and that the death toll could rise because many of the wounded were in a serious condition.
Activists said the blast targeted the market area of the town, which is a few kilometres from the border with Turkey, on the Orontes river.
The attack came a day after six members of the International Committee of the Red Cross and a member of the Syrian Red Crescent were kidnapped in Idlib province by “unidentified armed men.”
“We call for the immediate and unconditional release of the seven colleagues,” said Magne Barth, head of the ICRC’s Syria delegation.
The ICRC has not commented on the nationality of those abducted, and there has been no claim of responsibility.
Rebels control large swathes of Idlib, and kidnappings have become an increasing problem in rebel-held parts of Syria, targeting both journalists and aid workers.
The Red Cross, a rare aid group working on both sides of the conflict, said the team had travelled to Idlib on October 10 to assess the situation at health facilities and deliver aid.
Speaking to Swiss radio today, ICRC spokesman Ewan Watson said the kidnapping would not stop the group’s work in Syria.
“We don’t have any intention of stopping our activities in Syria, but of course this situation makes us reflect and take a close look at our operations,” he said.
Another ICRC spokesman, Simon Schorno, told AFP that the organisation has “not spoken to our colleagues or with the people who are holding them.”
Schorno said staff members had been held for a “matter of hours” in an incident in Syria earlier this year.
But Sunday’s incident appears to be the first time the organisation’s members have been kidnapped in the country.