UN observer chief escapes Syria bomb blast
Published Sunday, May 20, 2012
A roadside bomb has exploded in a restive suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus as the chief of the UN observers was visiting the area.
No casualties were reported from Sunday's blast in Douma, which damaged a parked Toyota pickup car. It was not immediately clear what the bomb's target was.
Major General Robert Mood and a team of observers and journalists were some 150 meters away when the blast went off, blowing off the front of the vehicle.
The explosions are the latest setback for the UN-backed peace plan proposed by international envoy Kofi Annan.
A UN observer team with more than 200 members now on the ground has done little to quell the bloodshed in Syria, and some monitors have even been caught up in the violence themselves.
Elsewhere on Sunday, two senior Syrian officials rejected claims they had been killed in a rebel attack.
The interviews came after satellite channels Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya broadcast an amateur video showing an unidentified man claiming a rebel group's responsibility for killing six officials.
The unidentified man in the video claimed to be speaking on behalf of the Brigades of the Sahaba, or friends of the Prophet Mohammed.
Those named are part of President Bashar Assad's inner circle and members of the regime's "crisis management" team.
The officials named included Assef Shawkat, Assad's brother-in-law and military intelligence chief, ministers of interior and defense Mohammad al-Shaar and Daoud Rajha respectively, and national security chief Hisham Bakhtiar.
Also named were Hassan Turkmani, assistant to the vice-president, and Mohammad Said Bakhtian, assistant to the Baath Party chief.
"What the disgusting Al-Jazeera is broadcasting is completely false," Shaar told Syrian state TV by telephone. "We are used to this kind of news, and to these campaigns of lies and slander."
Turkmani too denied he had been killed in an on-screen interview during which he also slammed Al-Jazeera's report as being "packed with misinformation."
Meanwhile the opposition expressed doubts about the veracity of the claims.
Claims of violence in Syria are difficult to verify due to a crackdown on media freedom both by the government and rebel groups and the deteriorating security situation.