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

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Extras
indybest
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
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

Business Development Director - Interior Design

£80000 - £100000 per annum + competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment...

Sales Director, Media Sponsorship

£60000 - £65000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A globally successful media and ...

Head of Affiliate Sales for Emerging Markets

competitive + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Are you looking for your next role ...

Brand Engagement Manager - TV

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is your chance to join a gl...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits