At least 80 people have been killed in a drone attack that targeted a graduation ceremony at a military college in Syria’s central Homs province on Thursday, the country’s health minister has said.
The Syrian government said members of the armed forces and civilians were among the casualties. Health Minister Hasan Ghabbagh said the 80 killed included six women and six children, and 240 were wounded.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll higher, saying over 100 people were killed, but the number isn’t confirmed. Ghabbagh said his casualty figures were based on “initial data,” suggesting the official death toll could rise.
Syrian Defense Minister Ali Abbas was present at the graduating ceremony, but reports say he left about 20 minutes before the drone bombardment. In a statement, Syria’s military said the attack was conducted by “armed terrorist organizations supported by well-known international parties.”
The Syrian government did not blame a specific group. After the attack, Syrian strikes were reported in the northwestern Idlib province, which is mainly controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an al-Qaeda offshoot.
According to The Cradle, the Syrian army targeted the headquarters of the Turkic Islamic Party, an extremist Uyghur group based in Idlib that wants to establish an Islamic State in China’s Xinjiang region.