Middle East

Syrian festival attack death toll now 45

Armed men watch Syrian Kurds celebrating the Kurdish New Year, or 'Nowruz', at a Sports Hall compund in Damascus, Syria, 21 March 2015.

The death toll from a bombing attack on a Kurdish new year festival in northeastern Syria has risen to 45, a monitoring group says.

Forty-five people, including five children, were killed in attacks on Syrian Kurds as they celebrated their new year, a monitoring group says, accusing the Islamic State group of responsibility.

The attacks occurred on Friday in what was one of the IS group's bloodiest days in Syria as the Sunni Muslim extremist group left dead more than 120 people across the war-ravaged country.

"There are now 45 dead from last night's attacks in Hasakeh, as most of those who were in critical condition passed away," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, updating its toll after reporting that 33 were killed.

Two explosions struck as members of Syria's Kurdish minority took part in festivities on the eve of Nowruz, the Kurdish new year, in the northeastern city of Hasakeh.

"They were lighting the candles at night, and there were a lot children around," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

There was still no claim of responsibility, but Abdel Rahman told AFP that the Islamic State group was behind the attacks.

He said the explosions were a few hundred metres apart from each other, with at least one of them caused by a suicide bomber inside a vehicle.

Hasakeh city is under the control of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and regime forces, but IS militants have launched attacks on towns nearby.

The jihadist offensive has sparked fierce clashes with Kurdish militia in the province, which is strategically located along Syria's borders with Iraq and Turkey.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the "heinous" attacks, while the commander of the Kurdish security forces, Joan Ibrahim, said "the crime that occurred today in Hasakeh will not pass without retribution."

The IS jihadists also attacked government checkpoints and positions in the central provinces of Homs and Hama on Friday, killing at least 82 members of forces loyal to the Syrian regime.

Sixty-two of those deaths were in the province of Hama alone, where IS attacked regime points along a key road leading north to Aleppo.

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