Twin bombs rock Syrian capital
Published Friday, December 23, 2011
Updated 4:57pm: Twin car explosions struck security facilities in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Friday, killing 40 people and wounding at least 100.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdesi said the attacks were carried out by "terrorists (trying) to sabotage the will for change" in Syria, and followed warnings from Lebanon that al-Qaeda fighters had infiltrated Syria from Lebanese territory.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Meqdad inspected the scene of the blasts, and also laid blame on al-Qaeda.
"On the first day after the arrival of the Arab observers, this is the gift we get from the terrorists and al-Qaeda but we are going to do all we can to facilitate the Arab League mission," he said.
Meqdad was accompanied to the bomb site by Arab League assistant secretary general Samir Seif al-Yazal, head of the observer mission's advance team which flew in on Thursday.
Yazal offered his condolences to the families of the dead. "What has happened is regrettable but the important thing is that everyone stay calm," he told reporters.
"We are going to press on with our work. We have started today, and tomorrow (Saturday) we will meet (Foreign Minister) Walid Muallem."
Two cars rigged with explosives blew up in the capital, according to Syrian state TV, adding that it was most probably the work of al-Qaeda militants.
State TV showed disturbing footage of charred bodies inside the cars that exploded, suggesting that they were twin suicide car bombings.
"The terrorist attacks left a number of martyrs, both civilian and military. Most of the victims were civilian," Syrian state TV said in a news flash.
The bombs struck the state security directorate and a security branch in the capital, according to Syria's official news agency, SANA.
An Associated Press reporter in Damascus said the blasts went off within a minute of one another in the Kfar Sousa district, where the state security and intelligence buildings are located.
The Mezze highway, an important route connecting Damascus to its suburbs, has been cut off by armed forces as army checkpoints conduct body searches in restive pockets, an Al-Akhbar correspondent said from the Syrian capital.
Mohammad Omar, an opposition activist, accused the Syrian regime of deliberately orchestrating the attack to "deceive Arab observers."
"No operation of this sort has occurred inside Damascus since the beginning of the Syrian revolution," he said, adding that "Damascus is completely surrounded by army and security checkpoints," questioning how booby-trapped vehicles were able to get so deep into the city, and so close to security facilities.
Omar also said that the Syrian regime had the most to benefit from the blasts in its continued attempt to prove to the world that it is under attack from armed terrorist groups.
"The direct beneficiary of this operation is the Syrian regime so that it can discredit the peaceful popular movement," he said.
Syria's state TV has released graphic footage of the casualties and destruction caused by the blasts.
SANA have also published extremely graphic images.
The deadly blasts come as Arab observers begin its mission to oversee the implementation of an Arab League protocol signed by Syria to end the violence.
At least 5,000 people have been killed since the Syrian uprising began in March, according to the latest UN figures. These figures are highly disputed by Damascus who accuses opposition parties of inflating them for propaganda purposes.
(Syrian state TV, AFP, AP, Reuters, SANA, Al-Akhbar)