The bomb exploded outside the Church of the Virgin Mary in a Kurdish-dominated area of the country
A car bomb exploded near a Syriac Orthodox church in Qamishli on Thursday, injuring about 11 people. It is unclear who is responsible for the attack.
According to AFP, the July 11 bombing “slightly dented” the metal gate of the Church of the Virgin Mary located in the al-Wasta neighborhood of Qamishli, in Syria’s Al-Hasakah Governorate on the border with Turkey.
Sana, the Syrian state news agency, reported that the blast caused “material damage to parts of the church, shops and cars.”
Ignatius Aphrem II, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, “condemned with the strongest terms this cowardly terrorist act, considering that the perpetrators of the explosion aim to create an atmosphere of worry and chaos among citizens and destabilize the situation in the region,” Sana reported.
Al-Wasta is held by the Syrian government; much of the rest of Qamishli is controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed, Kurdish-dominated alliance.
Most media report that the attack has gone unclaimed, though The Defense Post reported that Islamic State took credit for the bombing.
Joan Garcia, a researcher with the Rojava Information Center (an organization in northeastern Syria assisting reporters and researchers), told The Defense Post that “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.”
North East Syria is a Kurdish name for Rojava, or Western Kurdistan, a de facto autonomous region of Syria under Kurdish control.
Garcia added that Qamishli “has for some years been secure from ISIS attacks.”
“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 Qamishli exists peacefully alongside Arab and Kurdish communities,” Garcia said.
The Syrian civil war began in March 2011 with demonstrations against the nation’s president, Bashar al-Assad. The war has claimed the lives of more than 500,000 people, and forced 5.6 million to become refugees. Another 6.6 million Syrians are believed to have been internally displaced by the violence.
The civil war is being fought among the Syrian regime and a number of rebel groups. The rebels include moderates, such as the Free Syrian Army; Islamists such as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the Islamic State; and Kurdish separatists.