BEIRUT — A massive car bomb ripped through a crowded garage Thursday near a rebel-held border crossing between Syria and Turkey, killing at least 43 people in an area that has seen fierce fighting between rival rebel groups, an anti-government activist group said.
The attack came as President Bashar Assad's forces have seized the momentum of the country's 3-year-old civil war ahead of presidential elections scheduled for June 3.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the blast killed 43 people and wounded more than 80. Injured Syrians taken to hospitals in Turkey and later died are among the 43 killed, said Rami Abdurrahman, the head of the organization, which relies on a network of activists on the ground.
The Local Coordination Committees, another activist group, also reported the car bombing but said only that it killed and wounded "dozens of people."
Car bombings have become common in Syria as the influence of Islamic extremist groups has risen, dampening the support of the U.S. and its European allies for the opposition seeking to oust Assad. Opposition activists have blamed al-Qaida-linked fighters, who are engaged in deadly fighting among rival rebel factions in Syria, although no group claimed responsibility for Thursday's blast.
An amateur video posted online showed women, men and children at the scene of the blast near the Bab al-Salameh border crossing in the northern province of Aleppo. In another video posted online by activists, burned out cars are seen in the area near the crossing and the site of the attack, as people walk past pools of blood, with clothes and other personal belongings scattered all around.
People cross the border at Bab al-Salameh on foot, so the garage was filled with vehicles transporting people to or from the crossing. "Oh God, may you punish them!" a man shouted as people used fire extinguishers to put out flames consuming two vehicles.