GAZIANTEP, Turkey — A car bomb exploded in the bustling central shopping district of a rebel-controlled town in northern Syria on Monday, killing at least 27 people.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition group, said that three children and one woman were among those killed in the morning blast in Darkush. There were numerous serious injuries and the number of dead was expected to rise.
“It happened this morning. … [There were] many pedestrians,” said Abu Ali al-Rojj, an activist from the city of Saraqeb, around 45 miles from Darkush, speaking via Skype.
Images released immediately after the attack showed figures running through clouds of smoke and a flaming car amid shattered buildings and rubble. The scene of the blast appeared to be Darkush’s main street.
Some of the wounded in Monday's bombing were reportedly transferred to nearby Turkey. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Darkush, which sits on the shores of the Orontes river in Syria’s northwest Idlib province, is considered a relatively safe haven for Syrians fleeing violence in other areas of the province, particularly in the government-controlled city of Jisr al-Shughur.
The town has a sizable population of displaced people, many of whom have settled in homes abandoned by former residents from the Alawite sect to which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad belongs. The Alawites, fearing attacks from opposition forces, have fled to government-controlled zones.
The Darkush area is believed to be a key transit route for foreign fighters and weapons entering Syria from Turkey.
Syrian frontier towns have been plagued by violence recently, reflecting deep divisions among the fragmented opposition forces.
A car bombing at the nearby Bab al-Hawa border crossing on Sept. 17 killed seven people. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, a militant group with large numbers of foreign fighters, claimed responsibility for that attack.
Last month, ISIS and another rebel group, the Northern Storm Brigade, fought for control of Azaz, a strategic town in northern Aleppo province. The clashes in Azaz forced Turkey to close the nearby Bab Salameh border crossing, another important supply route for opposition forces.
Meanwhile fighting continues to rage in Syria’s northeast Hasakah province, where Kurdish militants seeking autonomy are battling militants from a pair of Al Qaeda-linked rebel factions, the ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra.
More than 100,000 people have been killed during Syria’s more than two-year civil war, according to United Nations estimates. At least two million have fled Syria, while more than four million people remain displaced within the country’s borders, the U.N. says.