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Syria activists say scores killed, injured in gas station attack

September 20, 2012 | 10:04 am

Syrian opposition activists say at least 110 people were killed or injured Thursday when government forces bombarded a gas station, setting off a deadly explosion in the northern village of Ain Issa.

Witnesses saw at least 30 bodies and the death toll is expected to rise in the town located roughly 25 miles from the Turkish border, Rami Abdul-Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told the Associated Press. The London-based opposition group said on its website that aerial bombardment had triggered the explosion, according to lawyers and activists.

Another opposition activist group, the Local Coordination Committees, reported at least 55 were dead “due to warplane shelling” in the town. It claimed on its website that regime forces were besieging the National Hospital in Raqqa province where the injured were being taken and preventing people from entering.

Video footage spread by opposition activists, said to be taken at the scene of the attack Thursday, showed black smoke and charred and burning vehicles around what appears to be a gas station.

The Times was unable to verify the reported death toll as of Thursday morning; media access to many of the conflict zones is limited.

Opposition activists also reported violent clashes between government forces and rebels elsewhere in Raqqa province, claiming that Free Syrian Army insurgents had taken control of government buildings in the city of Tal Abyad over the last few days.

Syrian state media had no immediate reports on violence in Ain Issa, but reported that armed forces had inflicted heavy losses on rebels who had tried to attack people in Tal Abyad on Thursday, killing “tens of terrorists including one of their leaders.”

The government has repeatedly denied past reports of attacks on civilians, saying it is defending its citizens from armed terrorists, its usual term for the rebels. 

Reports of the bombardment came on the heels of a new report from Amnesty International, which said Tuesday that its firsthand investigations in the battered region showed the Syrian army was waging a relentless campaign of air assaults on northern Syria, chiefly killing civilians. Many of those slain in the indiscriminate attacks were children, it said, labeling the attacks as war crimes.

The uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad and his government has continued for more than a year and a half, shifting from protests into an armed conflict that has drawn in foreign fighters, to the alarm of neighboring countries and Western powers.

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--Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

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