Truck bomb kills at least 40 people in Syria’s Afrin

(Updates with government statements)

A bomb-laden oil tanker exploded in northern Syria's Kurdish-populated province of Afrin on Tuesday, killing at least 40 people.

The suspect who detonated the truck in the city centre, was later apprehended by the Afrin authorities, according to a statement by the governorate of Hatay, Turkey’s southernmost province.

The casualty tolls conflicted between the Hatay governorate's statement and a Turkish Defence Ministry statement on Twitter. The statement said three children were killed and 30 were wounded in the blast, while the Turkish Defence Ministry reported 11 children killed and 47 wounded.

The wounded are being treated at hospitals in Afrin and Hatay, the Hatay governorate said.

The Turkish government blamed the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Syrian Kurdish militia the People's Protection Units, which Turkey says is a terrorist group linked to the PKK.

“Heinous terrorist organisation PKK/YPG slaughtered innocent civilians, including children even on this holy day of Ramadan. Wish Allah’s mercy upon the deceased. Those who support the terrorists and trying to take it off the terror list are also responsible for this cowardly attack,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu wrote on Twitter.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu also condemned the attack, pointing the finger at the two Kurdish militias.

“The treacherous (PKK/YPG) terrorist organization will not get away with the attack carried out in Afrin on Mubarak Ramadan,” Soylu said on Twitter.

After a two-month offensive against Kurdish militia, Turkish troops and the Free Syrian Army took control of Afrin on March 17, 2018. Turkish-controlled areas in northern Syria have been a frequent target of bomb attacks that claimed the lives of several Turkish-backed militia and civilians.