Explosion rocks Damascus suburb as ICRC head arrives for talks

Al-Akhbar is currently going through a transitional phase whereby the English website is available for Archival purposes only. All new content will be published in Arabic on the main website (www.al-akhbar.com).

Al-Akhbar Management

Published Monday, September 3, 2012

Women and children were among the victims of a massive car bomb that ripped through a Damascus suburb Monday as the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) headed to Damascus for talks with President Bashar al-Assad.

Ambulances were seen ferrying the wounded from the Wihdeh roundabout in Jaramana after the blast. Conflicting reports over casualties emerged, placing deaths between five and ten.

Another 27 people were injured in the blast, according to the Observatory for Human Rights, a United Kingdom-based watchdog group.

Syrian state news agency SANA blamed the attack on a "terrorist group" while opposition activists said Assad's security agents were behind the bombing to sow sectarian strife in the district, inhabited by Sunni Muslims, Christians and Druze.

The latest explosion takes place as Peter Maurer, a former senior Swiss diplomat who took over the independent agency in July, prepares for talks with Assad and other senior officials in Damascus during a three-day trip.

"Talks will mainly tackle the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation and the difficulties faced by the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent as they attempt to reach people affected by the armed conflict," an ICRC statement read.

In Geneva, ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan said that Maurer's meetings would begin on Tuesday.

The ICRC deploys 50 foreign and Syrian aid workers in Syria, but all have been confined to Damascus since late-July due to the heavy fighting in what it has said has become an internal armed conflict.

At least 12 people were killed last week by a car bomb in Jaramana that targeted a funeral for two men killed by rebels in the area. Opposition activists said the two men were members of a newly formed state-backed militia.

Also on Monday, Syria's main exiled opposition group appealed for weapons and military intervention to support rebel fighters.

"We need a humanitarian intervention and we are asking for military intervention for the Syrian civilians," Syrian National Council leader Abdel Basset Sayda said after meeting Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo.

Syrian forces have been locked in a deadly stalemate with rebel forces determined to overthrow Assad's regime. Nearly 18 months of fighting has left about 18,000 people dead across the country while hundreds of thousands have fled to neighboring countries to escape the violence, according to UN figures.

(Reuters, AFP, UPI, Al-Akhbar)

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