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Syria: Bomb explodes outside church in Qamishli Christian neighborhood

A car bomb that blew up outside a church in a Christian area of the city of Qamishli in northeast Syria injured nearly a dozen people, security services in northeast Syria said.

Islamic State said it carried out the bombing, which Syrian state television said wounded 11 people and damaged several cars.

Security services have said eight people were injured, mostly lightly, the Rojava Information Center told The Defense Post. The bomb exploded just as people were leaving a Church service around 5:45 p.m. local time (1445 GMT).

The bomb went off at the Virgin Mary church in the majority Christian district of al-Wasta, which is held by Syrian government forces.

ISIS continues to claim deadly attacks in Syria despite the loss of its last stronghold of Baghuz in March.

Qamishli, which Kurds who make up the majority in the city call Qamishlo, is the capital of the self-declared autonomous region of North and East Syria. Most of the city is under control of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a mixed Kurdish-Arab militia that is supported by the U.S.-led Coalition in the fight against ISIS, although parts of the city are also under the control of the Syrian government.

“According to our research, this attack is the eleventh in eleven days in Hasakah province and the fourth in a month in Qamishlo – the de facto capital of North East Syria, which has for some years been secure from ISIS attacks,” RIC researcher Joan Garcia said.

“As such, these attacks form part of a steady increase in ISIS-linked attacks in previously-secure, Kurdish-majority cities close to the border. This particular attack targeted worshippers leaving a church, part of the Christian minority which in Qamishlo exists peacefully alongside Arab and Kurdish communities. Similar attacks have targeted churches in Hasakah city and the Khabur region in recent weeks.”

Qamishli has been targeted several times in recent years, including by ISIS, but has seen less violence than other parts of Syria. Last month ISIS set off a vehicle bomb targeting the Asayish police force in the Qidurbek neighborhood injured several people, including an 8-year-old.

A July 2016 truck bombing claimed by ISIS killed 45 people and injured over 100, the deadliest ever attack in the city. In January, the Asayish dismantled a car bomb that had been discovered in the city.

Data gathered by the Rojava Information Center indicated two explosions in Qamishli in May, one in April, and none in March.

The attacks “can be seen as part of ISIS’ destabilization strategy,” Garcia said. “Following a heavy SDF-led and Coalition-backed crackdown in the newly-liberated Deir Ezzor region, ISIS are launching more attacks in the heart of the autonomous region. Such attacks are an attempt to sow division among co-existing peoples in North East Syria and shatter the fragile peace in the region, and we expect to see more and more deadly assaults like this in the coming months as ISIS, the regime and the Turkish state all turn the screw on North East Syria.”

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