Suicide bombers attack Air Force intelligence compound on edge of Damascus in the latest sign of Islamist influence

 

Beirut

The Free Syrian Army today threatened to “teach a lesson” to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah by hitting targets in the Lebanese capital as two suicide bombers in vehicles laden with explosives struck a regime intelligence building in Damascus.

In what would constitute a devastating setback to attempts to contain the Syrian civil war, Fahad al Masri, a spokesman for the FSA Joint Command, said rebels would strike Hezbollah in its stronghold in Beirut’s southern suburb of Dahiyeh if the group’s fighters backing President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are not withdrawn immediately.

“If Hezbollah do not stop helping the Assad regime, we will teach Hassan Nasrallah a big lesson inside his area in Beirut,” he told The Independent. “We know how to find him and all the other criminal Hezbollah leaders. I don’t advise Hassan Nasrallah to test our military experience or our knowledge.”

Mr Masri claims that the FSA has captured 13 Hezbollah fighters in the region of Homs over the past two weeks. A long standing ally of the Assad regime, Hezbollah - which is the dominant faction in the Lebanese government and also has an armed wing - has announced several funerals for its fighters in recent weeks, including a senior commander. Hezbollah said the men were killed while performing “jihadist duties” without specifying where. Kamel al-Rifai, a Hezbollah MP, has denied fighters have crossed to Syria.

Compounded by nearly a week of cross-border violence with Turkey, concerns have heightened about how long Syria’s neighbours will be able to remain out of the 19-month old conflict, as daily death tolls regularly push into triple digits.

Speaking in Brussels today, Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance is ready to defend Turkey, in what were regarded as largely symbolic comments.

“Obviously Turkey can rely on NATO solidarity,” he said. “We have all necessary plans in place to protect and defend Turkey if necessary.”

The jihadist group Al Nusra Front claimed responsibility for today’s blast at the Air Force Intelligence building in the Harasta district of Damascus. In a statement the group described how a suicide bomber detonated a car packed with nine tonnes of explosives.

Twenty five minutes later, as authorities rushed to the scene, another bomber in an ambulance carried out a second blast before Al Nusra said it rounded off the attack by “showering” the area with a “barrage of mortar shells”.

Staggered dual bombings, designed to cause maximum loss of life, are a tactic commonly used by al-Qa’ida in Iraq.

“It felt as if a bomb exploded inside every house in the area,“ said one resident. The death toll was unclear, with the area sealed off today, but Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said “dozens” had been killed.

The Air Force Intelligence is one of the most feared branches of the Syrian mukhabarat. It played a key role in the crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1980s, and is known for its operations against Islamist groups. Activists raised concerns about the safety of hundreds of prisoners believed to be held in the building.

Al Nusra described it as “one of the most notorious security divisions, and a citadel of repression whose extent is known only to God.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
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: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence