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Car bomb hits near Russian base in northeast Syria

A car bomb detonated near a Russian military base in northeastern Syria on Friday in the first such militant attack in the area against the ally of Damascus, a war monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group reported several wounded in the attack after midnight in the Tal Saman area in Raqqa province, but did not give an exact figure.

There was no immediate Russian report of the incident, which occurred in a broader area controlled by Kurdish-led forces but where the Syrian regime and its ally Russia are also present.

A statement circulated on social media and attributed to the Hurras Al-Deen militant group claimed the attack.

The Observatory said two men parked an explosives-laden pickup truck outside the base and fled, in what was a rare such assault by Hurras Al-Deen in the area.

“It’s the first such direct attack against a Russian base in northeastern Syria,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Hurras Al-Deen has fighters in the country’s last major rebel bastion in the northwestern region of Idlib, but very rarely operates outside that area.

Russia entered Syria’s war in 2015, and its air force has backed Damascus regime forces in several deadly military campaigns against Idlib.

Russia has repeatedly accused rebels in Idlib of attacking its Khmeimim Air Base west of the opposition stronghold with drones, but car bomb attacks are much rarer.

Russian troops are stationed in northern Syria, including as part of several deals brokered with rebel backer Turkey.

A day earlier, ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack that killed nearly 40 soldiers in Syria the day before when militants ambushed a bus in eastern Syria.

The Observatory said ISIS had attacked regime soldiers as they traveled home for holidays in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, killing 37.

It said eight officers were among those killed while 12 other soldiers were wounded in the attack.

A statement by ISIS’s propaganda arm Amaq said its fighters had “ambushed a bus transporting apostate Nusayri army elements,” using a derogatory term for the Alawite sect to which Syria’s Bashar Assad belongs.