Rebel bomb attacks drag Syria into guerrilla war

 

Beirut

Several large bomb blasts rocked the Syrian capital Damascus yesterday, killing at least nine people and stoking fears of an increasingly bloody insurgency as rebels are forced to adopt guerrilla tactics while the international community stands idly by.

Activists reported at least four blasts in the city, the deadliest of them outside the Zeen al-Abadeen mosque in the Midan district.

They came on a day of violence across the country, with activists accusing the government of using shelling and gunfire to prevent peaceful protests.

Syrian state television Sana showed the carnage of the Midan explosion, with dismembered body parts and limbs strewn across the street.

It said at least nine were killed and scores injured in the atrocity, which it blamed on a "terrorist suicide bomber".

One resident said a man had approached soldiers and set off a bomb belt when challenged. However, some activists claimed the attack was staged by the government.

There has been little let-up in violence since a UN-brokered ceasefire a fortnight ago. UN observers and the international community are scrambling for an alternative course of action if the six-point plan put forwarded by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan fails.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians took to the streets across the country, their protests increasingly rounding on the international community and UN observers.

Many demonstrations were broken up with bullets and tear gas, according to activists, who reported heavy shelling in Homs before Friday prayers.

"UN monitors, Allah is monitoring you," some 1,000 protesters in Zabadani, a Damascus suburb, chanted.

Referring to the Moroccan general heading the advance team of monitors, one protester held up a sign reading: "General Ahmed Himmiche is just another one of Assad's security guards." Just 15 of the advance team of 30 are currently in the country. The UN yesterday said the remaining half would arrive by Monday as it deflects criticism for the slow deployment.

Other blasts in Damascus yesterday a included one in Adawi, near the agricultural department of Damascus University. There were also reported car bomb attacks near a government facility hosting militiamen in the city's industrial area and in the city centre.

Mar Ram, a Damascus activist, said he heard the city centre blast, which was near the Zayed bin Thabet mosque.

"It was huge," he said. "All citizens of Damascus must have heard it.

"We started hearing ambulances. You could feel the tension in the air. They are saying it's a car bomb, we say it's the regime."

With international journalists largely barred from entering Syria, such reports are difficult to verify.

However, Free Syrian Army commanders confirmed to The Independent that with inferior firepower to the army, they are increasingly turning to homemade bombs.

The British Conservative Middle East Council, which made a fact-finding trip to Lebanon this month to meet refugees and the FSA, said the risk of an Iraq-style sectarian conflict – a narrative long exploited by the regime – had " become a self-fulfilling prophecy".

It said that as rebels turn to homemade explosives, it will provide an opportunity that Jihadist groups who specialise in them "will likely exploit".

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