Car bombs kill 34 in pro-Assad Damascus suburb

 

Two car bombs killed at least 34 people in a district of Damascus loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in the deadliest attack on the Syrian capital in months.

The explosions struck the eastern neighbourhood of Jaramana, home to many of Syria's Druze minority as well as Christians who have fled violence elsewhere, ripping through shops and bringing debris crashing down on cars.

Once a bastion of security in Assad's 20-month campaign to crush an uprising against his rule, Damascus has been hit with increasing regularity as the rebels grow bolder.

State media said a bomb also detonated in the southern town of Bosra al-Sham, near Deraa, where the revolt began with peaceful street protests in March 2011. It also said eight "terrorists" were killed near Damascus while they tried to booby-trap a car with a bomb.

Authorities severely limit independent media in Syria and it was not immediately possible to verify reports. The government said 34 people were killed in Damascus but did not give a casualty count for the Bosra al-Sham bombing.

The attacks followed two weeks of military gains by rebels who have stormed and taken army bases across Syria, exposing Assad's loss of control in northern and eastern regions despite the devastating air power which he has used to bombard opposition strongholds.

A resident of Jaramana said that rebels had been repeatedly forbidden by local Druze elders to operate in the district, which borders the capital's centre where government offices are located.

"Tension have risen between Druze elders and rebels and now there are 3 or 4 small explosions a week," she told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Underlining the growing military muscle of the rebels, bolstered by weapons captured during raids on army facilities as well as supplies from abroad, fighters shot down a war plane in northern Syria using an anti-aircraft missile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Opposition groups subsequently posted a video clip on the Internet that showed a man in a green jumpsuit being carried through fields. He was bleeding heavily from his head and appeared unconscious. "This is the pilot that attacked the houses of civilians," said a voice off camera.

Another video showed doctors treating the limp body of apparently the same pilot, who activists said ejected from his MiG 23 fighter jet before it crashed near Darat Ezza, about 30 km (20 miles) from Aleppo.

The bloodshed came as Syria's new opposition coalition held its first full meeting on Wednesday to discuss forming a transitional government crucial to win effective Arab and Western support for the revolt against Assad.

"The objective is to name the prime minister for a transitional government, or at least have a list of candidates," said Suhair al-Atassi, one of the coalition's two vice-presidents.

The two-day meeting in Cairo will also select committees to manage aid and communications, a process that is becoming a power struggle between the Muslim Brotherhood and secular members.

Rivalries have also intensified between the opposition in exile and rebels on the ground in Syria, where the death toll has reached 40,000, including soldiers, civilians and rebels.

The Syrian state news agency, SANA, described today's blasts as "terrorist bombings", a label it reserves for attacks by mainly Sunni Muslim fighters battling to overthrow Assad, a member of Syria's Alawite minority linked to Shi'ite Islam.

Two smaller bombs also exploded in Jaramana at about the same time as the car bombs, around 7 am (0500 GMT). In total at least 47 people were killed, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, giving a higher toll than the government. Eighty three people were seriously wounded, the British-based Observatory said.

"Who benefits from this? Tell me who benefits from this? America, Israel, Qatar?" a man at the bomb site said to Syrian television, which broadcast footage of firefighters hosing down the blackened hulks of two vehicles and several cars crushed by debris from neighbouring buildings.

Pools of blood could be seen on the road.

Most foreign powers have condemned Assad. Britain, France and Gulf countries have recognised the umbrella opposition group meeting in Cairo, the Syrian National Coalition, as the sole representative of the Syrian people.

But Assad has been able to rely on his allies, especially regional powerhouse Iran, which is believed to be bank-rolling him and supplying military support despite US and European sanctions. Russia, Syria's main arms supplier, says it has only sent weapons already agreed to in previous deals.

International Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi is due to brief the 15-member council tomorrow and the UN General Assembly on Friday. There is diplomatic deadlock between Western powers, who broadly support the opposition and Assad's supporters Russia and China which have blocked Security Council action.

Reuters

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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

Recruitment Genius: Account Executive - Graduate / Entry Level

£22000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital advertising infras...

Recruitment Genius: European Sales Director - Aerospace Cable & Wire

£100000 - £125000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a top tier supplier to the...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Project Manager

£17100 - £22900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an intermediate help de...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral