Sunday, April 16, 2017

Massive bombing in Aleppo, Syria, kills at least 126, mostly Shiite Muslims.

Smoke rises from the site of the bombing. Reuters. 

A massive car bombing targeting a convoy of refugees near Aleppo, Syria has killed at least 126 people, including more than 60 children. Reuters. The group of refugees were part of a swap where Syrian loyalists would evacuate two besieged villages while another group of anti-Assad refugees were released from a town under siege by the government. The convoy was made up of 5000 people from the towns of al-Foua and Kefraya, which have been under siege for months. The attack occurred behind the rebel lines and several rebel fighters were killed as well. Both the Syrian government and the Free Syrian Army have condemned the attack but so far no one has taken credit for it. 

My Comment:
Yet another atrocity in Syria. This one was especially tragic. The residents of al-Foua and Kefraya have been under siege since 2015 and have suffered immensely. The city has been cut off for quite some time and many civilians have died in the battles there. It is a pocket of regime forces completely surrounded by both rebels and al-Nusra Front soldiers. 

This is not the first time an evacuation has been attempted. In December 2016 a convoy of buses was arranged with the rebels in exchange for a population transfer for rebels and civilians in Damascus. That agreement was ended when the convoy came under attack by former al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra. The al-Nusra fighters burned the buses down. 

The fact that al-Nusra was responsible for the last attack on the evacuation makes them a prime suspect for this attack. Al-Nusra has a long history of terrorism and are more than capable of conducting an attack. Al-Nusra is also very active in the areas west of Aleppo and have a very major presence in that part of Syria. They are cold blooded killers and have no problems with killing refugees and children. 

ISIS are the other main suspects. They too have conducted multiple terror attacks and have targeted other humanitarian convoys. They certainly have the motive and means to attack this convoy, but I doubt they did it. Why? Well, it's unlikely that they would be able to get to the area. ISIS has very little presence in western Syria and to conduct such an attack not only would they have to get by the local rebels, they would also have to get by regime fighters near Aleppo, or get by the Kurds in the north. I guess it is possible, and they certainly are capable of killing these people, I just don't think it is very likely. 

My guess is that this was an al-Nusra attack. Not only are the very active in the area, they are also very motivated to attack the mostly Shiite Muslims that made up the population of the refugees. Though ISIS gets much of the attention, it's important to note that both groups have similar ideologies. They are more alike than different and both consider Shia Muslims to be apostates. They have conducted several horrible terrorist attacks against Shiites and are essentially committing genocide against them.  

Despite this atrocity, it is encouraging that these population exchanges are happening. Evacuating civilians is a good thing, especially when those civilians are under siege. From what I understand Iran and Qatar were the ones that brokered the deal and they should be commended for it. I am hoping that this attack doesn't derail further attempts at swaps like this. If there is to be any chance at this war ending, the rebels and regime will have to come to some kind agreement and if this effort makes those talks more likely then I am all for it. 

The problem is that al-Nusra and ISIS will keep derailing these efforts. They know that these population exchanges can open the lines of communications. The two groups need, more than anything else, a weak Syrian regime and rebels that have taken a back seat to them. This attack helps both of those goals... 

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