DAMASCUS: At least 27 people died in a car bombing in rebel-held northwestern Syria as the United States (US) stepped up its calls for a peace conference between the rebels and the Assad regime.
Also on Monday (Tuesday in Manila), suspected jihadists freed four out of seven aid workers kidnapped in the increasingly volatile region.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has not commented on the nationality of those abducted, though it has said most of the group were Syrian. There has been no claim of responsibility.
The United Nations (UN) said, meanwhile, that “the race is on” to make sure Syria keeps to deadlines to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal under the terms of a UN Security Council resolution.
The blast in the town of Darkush killed at least 27 people, including three children and a woman, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding the death toll could rise because many of the wounded were in serious condition.
Activists said the blast targeted the market area of the town, which is a few kilometers (miles) from the border with Turkey, on the Orontes River.
Four of the kidnapped aid workers were meanwhile freed, ICRC spokesman Ewan Watson said, adding the organization was awaiting further information about the others.
The Observatory said an al-Qaeda-linked rebel group—the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant—kidnapped the six Red Cross staff and a volunteer from the Syrian Red Crescent.
The Red Cross, one of the few organizations able to deliver aid nationwide, said the team had travelled to Idlib on October 10 to assess the situation at health facilities and deliver aid.
“We don’t have any intention of stopping our activities in Syria, but of course this situation makes us reflect and take a close look at our operations,” Watson had earlier told Swiss radio.