Syria suicide blast kills 4 at security compound

BEIRUT (AP) — A suicide attacker detonated a car bomb near a Syrian security compound in a remote, predominantly Kurdish town Sunday, killing at least four people, state media said, in a new sign that the country’s largest ethnic minority might be drawn into a widening civil war.

Opposition activists said at least eight Syrian intelligence agents were killed and several dozen people wounded in the attack in the northeastern town of Qamishli, more than 700 kilometers from the capital Damascus.

Syria’s more than 2 million Kurds, long marginalized, have largely stayed out of the fighting, though some have participated in protests against the regime of President Bashar Assad.

The uprising against Assad that erupted 18 months ago has gradually morphed into a bloody civil war. The conflict has killed more than 30,000 people, activists say, and has devastated entire neighborhoods in Syria’s main cities, including Aleppo, the scene of intense fighting Sunday.

The leaders of Turkey and Egypt, among Assad’s main foreign foes, sent stern warnings to the regime and its allies, in speeches to Turkey’s ruling party.

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi said that “we will be on the side of the Syrian people until the bloodshed ends, the cruel regime is gone and Syrian people reach their just rights.”

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Syria’s allies Russia, China and Iran to end their support for Assad, warning that “history will not forgive those who stand together with cruel regimes.”

Turkey has given shelter to tens of thousands of Syrian refugees and Turkish soil has served as a crucial logistical center for rebel fighters since they captured several Syrian border crossings with Turkey over the summer.

Also over the summer, Syrian troops left several towns and villages in the Kurdish northeast, possibly to divert forces to overstretched troops fighting in hotspots elsewhere. The regime ceded de facto control to Kurdish fighters who began exercising a degree of autonomy unheard of before.

However, the regime has maintained a security presence in Qamishli, which abuts the Turkish border, said Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Sunday’s blast. Several previous suicide attacks in Syria were claimed by a Syrian militant group, the Al-Nusra Front.

Syrian state media said the explosion went off in an area housing security officers. It said four people were killed, dozens wounded and nearby buildings damaged. An amateur video posted online by activists showed a column of white smoke rising between buildings in Qamishli.

The Observatory said eight Syrian intelligence agents were killed and at least 40 people wounded in the explosion.

Most Kurds live in the northeast, but Aleppo and Damascus also have Kurdish-dominated neighborhoods.

Last week, a Kurdish district in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, was for the first time drawn into fighting between rebels and regime forces, amid conflicting reports about whether Kurdish gunmen fought alongside the regime or remained on the sidelines.

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