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Syrian government blames terrorists as blasts kill 40, injure 150 others

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by MziziMkavu, Dec 23, 2011.

  1. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

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    'We have all sorts of suspicions that this could be organized by the regime itself,' Assad opponent says


    AFP - Getty Images
    An image grab taken from Syrian state TV on Friday shows people searching through rubble at the site of a bomb attack at a security service base in Damascus.

    More than 40 were killed and 150 wounded in bomb attacks targeting heavily guarded intelligence buildings in Damascus on Friday, the Syrian government said.
    The explosions marked the bloodiest violence to hit Syria's capital in a nine-month-old uprising against President Bashar Assad.

    The blasts came a day after an advance team of Arab League observers arrived in the country to monitor Syria's promise to end its crackdown on protesters demanding Assad's ouster.

    Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad announced the death toll while accompanying the observers to the scene of the blasts. He said the attacks bolster the Syrian government's claims that the turmoil shaking the country since March was the work of terrorists and armed gangs.

    "We said it from the beginning, this is terrorism," Mekdad told told reporters outside the headquarters of the General Intelligence Agency, where bodies still littered the ground. "They are killing the army and civilians."

    State TV said initial investigations indicated possible involvement by the al-Qaida terror network.

    "The terrorist attacks left a number of martyrs, both civilian and military. Most of the victims were civilian," it added.

    'Very mysterious'

    However, Assad's opponents said the attack could have been staged to drive home the government's argument. "We have all sorts of suspicions that this could be organized by the regime itself," said Basma Qadmani, spokeswoman for the Syrian National Council, an umbrella group of regime opponents.

    Omar Idilbi, another member of the Syrian National Council, called the explosions "very mysterious because they happened in heavily guarded areas that are difficult to be penetrated by a car."

    "The presence of the Arab League advance team of observers pushed the regime to give this story in order to scare the committee from moving around Syria," he said, though he stopped short of accusing the regime in the blasts. "The second message is an attempt to make the Arab League and international public opinion believe that Syria is being subjected to acts of terrorism by members of al-Qaida."

    The blasts went off outside the main headquarters of the General Intelligence Agency and a branch of the military intelligence, two of the most powerful of Syria's multiple intelligence bodies.

    They occurred within minutes of each other.

    A Syrian military official said the explosion targeting the military intelligence building, the bigger of the two blasts, weighed more than 660 pounds and gouged a crater into the ground that was 2 yards deep and 1.5 yards wide. It killed 15 people, among them a retired brigadier general.

    Residents in Damascus reported hearing gunfire and ambulance sires for few minutes following the explosions.

    State television said more than 150 people were wounded by the explosions. It broadcast footage of mangled bodies being carried in blankets and stretchers into ambulances with sirens wailing.

    Television footage also showed bloodied streets littered with human remains, blackened cars and other debris, as well as a row of corpses wrapped in sheets laid along a street.

    Syria has generally barred foreign media from the country, making it hard to verify accounts of events from either side.

    David Hartwell, Middle East political analyst at IHS Jane's in London, said the timing "is certain to be viewed with suspicion by the opposition."

    "The start of the monitoring mission has been overshadowed by the attacks in Damascus, a fact that government critics may highlight as fortuitous and more than a little coincidental," he said.

    The United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed in the crackdown waged since March by the Syrian regime against protesters.

    With the arrival of Arab observers, the government has been eager to make its case, saying Thursday that 2,000 of its security personnel and soldiers have been killed in the turmoil.

    Activists say Assad, 46, is still trying to suppress public dissent with military force despite being hit with European Union and Arab League sanctions, and his avowed commitment to a peace plan.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Assad's forces carried out major assaults in the northern and southern provinces this week, apparently trying to quell serious opposition to strengthen his hand before the monitors settle in.

    The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

    Syrian government: 40 killed, 150 wounded in blasts - World news - Mideast/N. Africa -