Last updated: 12 March, 2014

Syria Kurds hold mass funeral for suicide bomb victims

Thousands of people attended a funeral in the northern Syrian city of Qamishli on Wednesday for nine victims of a triple suicide bombing, a monitoring group said.

Four women were among those killed in Tuesday’s bombing of Hadaya hotel in the heart of Qamishli, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, updating the death toll to nine.

The attack was carried out by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Syria’s most hardline jihadist group, whose fighters have been pitted against Kurds in several areas of northeast Syria.

ISIL’s jihadists are also fighting against other rebel groups, including Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.

The Britain-based Observatory said thousands turned out for the funeral in Syria’s main Kurdish city.

Amateur video distributed by activists showed huge crowds of mourners waving the Kurdish flag and chanting as they walked in a funeral procession.

The funeral coincided with the anniversary of Kurdish anti-regime protests which broke out in Qamishli in 2004, resulting in scores of people killed and hundreds imprisoned.

After Syria’s revolt broke out in 2011, the regime reached a fragile accommodation with the Kurds, largely withdrawing its troops from Kurdish areas to focus on fighting rebels elsewhere.

The Kurdish minority, which was long faced discrimination by the government, has used the crisis to build autonomous institutions, including security forces and local councils.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, fighting raged in the Qalamoun area near Lebanon, almost a month into a major drive by government forces backed by Lebanon’s Shiite movement Hezbollah to drive rebels out of its biggest town, Yabrud.

According to the Observatory, the latest fighting was focused on the edges of Yabrud, which has come under sustained aerial bombing for weeks.

On Wednesday, seven rebels were killed and an unknown number of regime loyalists, said the group.

In nearby Wadi Barada, another 10 troops and four rebels died in clashes, it added.

A total of more than 140,000 people have been killed in Syria’s three-year-old war, according to the Observatory, and millions more have fled their homes.