Syrian air strikes on IS ´capital´ kill 36 civilians

BEIRUT: A wave of Syrian regime air strikes on the Islamic State group´s self-proclaimed capital of Raqa, in the country´s east, killed at least 36 civilians on Tuesday, a monitor said.

“The death toll has risen to at least 36 in air raids on Raqa,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, updating its earlier toll of at least 23 killed.

“Dozens more were wounded, some of them critically. We fear the death toll may rise further,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

The head of the Britain-based monitoring group said previously that “most of the casualties were caused by two consecutive air strikes” on Raqa´s main industrial zone.

“The first strike came, residents rushed to rescue the wounded, and then the second raid took place,” said Abdel Rahman, whose group relies on a network of sources on the ground in Syria for its information.

Amateur video footage distributed by activists in Raqa showed several bloodied bodies laid out on a street near an apparent bombing site, as an ambulance rushed to the scene.

Aid workers in red overalls bearing the Red Crescent symbol could be seen placing the corpses into white body bags.

Activists from the city meanwhile denounced the raids as a “massacre”. The Islamic State organisation emerged in Syria´s war in spring 2013.

It took over Raqa, the only provincial capital to fall from government control since the outbreak of a 2011 revolt, and turned it into its bastion.

Most of the city´s civil society activists, as well as rebel fighters who expelled President Bashar al-Assad´s troops, have either been killed, kidnapped or forced to flee for other parts of Syria or neighbouring Turkey.