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

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Travel
travelWhy Japan's love hotels are thriving through an economic downturn
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Sport
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

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

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

year 4/5/6

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you looking for a full...

MFL TEACHER, SUPPLY VACANCY, LOVELY SITTINGBOURNE SCHOOL

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: The Job We are currently recruit...

NQT Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Crawley: Randstad Education can provide you wit...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week