People had gathered to honor a resident of the town near Damascus who had been killed earlier in the day, said Abu Omar, an activist in Zamalka who attended the funeral. The resident, Abdul Hadi Halabi, had been killed by gunfire when government forces briefly entered the town from their checkpoints, said Abu Omar, who requested to be identified by a nickname for his safety.
Men, women and children had gathered for the funeral for the town's 30th victim since the uprising began 16 months ago, a low number compared with some of the bloodshed nearby towns have experienced.
The car bomb went off as the procession passed a mosque. Hazy video clouded by dust in the first moments after the explosion showed dozens of mangled bodies lying on the road and the stretcher carrying Halabi’s body on the ground nearby.
"I can’t describe my feelings, because I am still numb right now given what I saw today," said Abu Omar, whose cousin was killed and father and uncle injured. "No one can withstand what we saw today."
The antigovernment Local Coordination Committees put the number of dead at 85. The toll and the accounts of the bombing could not be independently verified because the Syrian government has restricted outside journalists' access to the conflict zones.
Abu Omar said the death toll continued to rise late Saturday, with a large number of people critically injured.
The wounded were taken to field hospitals in nearby towns and a plea went out for people to donate blood. One doctor who was on his way to help was shot and killed by snipers, Abu Omar said.
Though protests and funeral processions have been attacked with gunfire and shelling, activists said it was the first time they could recall a bomb targeting such a gathering.
No one claimed immediate responsibility for the attack, but Abu Omar laid the blame on government forces.
"This is an attempt by the regime so that people will fear gathering because there could be another explosion,” he said, noting that there probably would be a funeral procession Sunday for the dozens killed. "If we were going to fear, we wouldn’t have gone out in the beginning of the revolution.”
The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency had no information on the explosion but reported a car bomb in the commercial hub of Aleppo’s business and financial district.
--Times staff in Los Angeles
A photo from Syrian Arab News Agency shows the scene of car bomb blast outside a finance building in Aleppo province. Credit: SANA / EPA