ASIA/SYRIA - Car bomb outside a church in northeastern Syria

Hassaké (Agenzia Fides) - A car bomb exploded in front of the Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, in the city of Raqqah, in northeastern Syria, causing two deaths and injuring a woman, all civilians. As confirmed by Fides sources in the local Christian community, the car bomb damaged the church building, spreading terror in the population. According to some versions, the explosion was targeted at the local governor, passing nearby. Raqqah is in the province of Jazirah, on the north bank of the Euphrates in eastern Syria on the border with Turkey. For several days, the province has been the scene of heavy fighting and towns like Deir Ezzor, Hassaké, Qamishli, Ras Al-Ayn are strongly destabilized by the presence of different factions (Kurds, Arabs, Sunni) in conflict with each other and with the loyalist forces. Because of total insecurity, banditry and the presence of foreign fighters, the vast majority of Christians, of different communities (mainly Assyrian, Syrian Orthodox and Syrian Catholic, with small groups of Armenians) have fled, as reported to Fides Agency by His Exc. Mgr, Eustathius Matta Roham, Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Jazirah and Euphrates (see Fides 12/11/2012). In the small border town of Ras Al-Ayn, on the Turkish-Syrian border, the presence of about two thousand foreign fighters, alongside the rebels, led the small Christian community to take refuge in Hassaké, but even here "the situation is precarious" , some Christian eyewitnesses told Fides, expressing strong concerns about the fate of civilians. The attack today is to be added to the destruction of the Evangelical Church of Damascus (see Fides 10/11/2012), and the explosion in front of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Deir Ezzor (see Fides 27/10/2012). (PA) (Agenzia Fides 14/11/2012)