At least nine killed as car bombing sparks mass marketplace blaze in Syria's Afrin
A local source told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service that a car exploded near the al-Hal market at dawn as stalls and businesses were opening.
The fire ripped through the marketplace, leaving a trail of destruction before it reached a local petrol station, causing a further explosion.
Most of the victims are thought to be local market traders and workers, including at least one child.
Around thirty people are thought to be injured, some of whom are in a critical condition.
The source added that ambulance and civil defence teams rushed to the scene to put out the fire and treat the injured, transferring the casualties to the local Turkish-run hospital.
Videos circulating on social media showed the mass destruction of the smoke-filled market, with many shops still ablaze.
The Kurdish YPG militia are suspected of being responsible for the car bombing, having previously targeted the area with similar attacks following Turkey's 2018 cross-border offensive into Afrin in a bid to push Kurds and Kurdish forces out of the area.
The 2018 operation caused killed scores of civilians and sparked the mass displacement of Kurds out of Afrin, which some have equated to ethnic cleansing. Turkey considers the Syrian YPG a terrorist organisation, accusing it of being an extension of the PKK, a Kurdish group who have led a long and bloody insurgency in Turkey.
Turkey has since launched a further operation into Syria’s northern border area, taking over a 32km (20-mile) deep "safe zone" along 480km (300 miles) of the Syrian side of the border.
Out-gunned and having lost US support, the Kurds have been forced to withdraw from the area, striking deals with the Syrian regime to hand over swathes of territory it won back from the Islamic State.Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab