At least 27 killed in Damascus blasts

 

Damascus

Twin car bombs struck intelligence and security buildings in the Syrian capital Damascus today, killing at least 27 people and wounding nearly 100, according to state media.

State TV, citing the health minister, said the death toll could rise. Gruesome images of the scene were aired, with mangled and charred corpses, bloodstained streets and twisted steel.

"All our windows and doors are blown out," said Majed Seibiyah, 29, who lives in the area. "I was sleeping when I heard a sound like an earthquake. I didn't grasp what was happening until I hear screaming in the street."

The blasts were the latest in a string of mysterious, large-scale attacks targeting the Syrian regime's military and security installations. The previous blasts, all suicide bombings, killed dozens of people since December, even as the regime wages a bloody crackdown against the year-old uprising against President Bashar Assad.

The government has blamed the explosions on the "terrorists" that it claims are behind the revolt. The opposition has denied any role, saying they believe forces loyal to the government are behind the bombings to tarnish the uprising.

But top US intelligence officials also have pointed to al-Qaida in Iraq as the likely culprit behind the previous bombings, raising the possibility its fighters are infiltrating across the border to take advantage of the turmoil.

Al-Qaida's leader called for Assad's ouster in February.

A suspected al-Qaida presence creates new obstacles for the US, its Western allies and Arab states trying to figure out a way to help push Assad from power, and may also rally Syrian religious minorities, fearful of Sunni radicalism, to get behind the regime.

Bassma Kodmani, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council, said she doubted armed groups trying to bring Assad down by force, such as the rebel Free Syrian Army, have the capacity to carry out such attacks on security institutions in the capital.

"I don't think any of the opposition forces or the free Syrian army has the capacity to do such an operation to target these buildings because they are fortresses," she said by telephone. "They are very well guarded. There is no way anyone can penetrate them without having strong support and complicity from inside the security apparatus."

According to SANA, preliminary information indicated two blasts were caused by car bombs that hit the aviation intelligence department and the criminal security department at 7:30 am local time. Shooting broke out soon after the blast and sent residents and others who had gathered in the area fleeing, an Associated Press reporter at the scene said.

A Syrian official also said there were reports of a third blast Saturday targeting a military bus at the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, but there were no details. He asked that his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

The Syrian government denies there is a popular will behind the uprising, saying foreign extremists and gangs are trying to destroy the country. But his opponents deny that and say an increasingly active rebel force has been driven to take up arms because the government used tanks, snipers and machine guns to crush peaceful protests.

The UN estimates that more that 8,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Assad began last March.

The last major suicide bombing in Syria happened on 10 February, when twin blasts struck security compounds in the government stronghold of Aleppo in northern Syria, killing 28 people. Damascus, another Assad stronghold, has seen three suicide previous bombings since December.

In recent weeks, Syrian forces have waged a series of heavy offensives against the main strongholds of the opposition — Homs in central Syria, Idlib in the north and Daraa in the south.

The bloodshed fuels the country's sectarian tensions. The military's top leadership is stacked heavily with members of the minority Alawite sect, to which Assad and the ruling elite belong.

Sunnis are the majority in the country of 22 million and make up the backbone of the opposition.

Diplomatic efforts to solve the crisis have so far brought no result. But U.N. envoy Kofi Annan told the Security Council in a briefing Friday that he would return to Damascus even though his recent talks with Assad saw no progress in attempts to cobble together peace negotiations between the two sides.

After the confidential briefing via videolink, Annan told reporters in Geneva that he urged the council "to speak with one voice as we try to resolve the crisis in Syria." Russia and China have blocked UN action against Assad's regime.

"The first objective is for all of us to end the violence and human rights abuses and the killings and get unimpeded access for humanitarian access to the needy, and of course the all-important issue of political process that will lead to a democratic Syria," Annan said.

Both Assad and much of the opposition spurned Annan's appeal for talks.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine