At least 55 people were killed and 372 injured when two car bombs exploded outside a well-known intelligence compound on Thursday morning in the Syrian capital of Damascus. The Syrian state news agency, SANA, broadcast images of the wreckage of a nine-story building with its front torn off, the smoldering remains of cars and two huge holes in the road. The Syrian regime and the opposition are blaming each for the deadly attack, which killed at least 11 soldiers and numerous civilians.
The blast occurred at around 7:50 am, just as government officials were arriving to work and children were taking buses to school. It was the largest so far, following blasts in December, April and May.
The Syrian government blamed “terrorists” financed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar for the attack. The opposition has blamed the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, charging that it alone has sufficient munitions to carry out such a blast and saying that the regime is seeking to frighten Syrians while trying to pin the blame on terrorists such as Al-Qaeda.
One of the bombed buildings was known as the “Palestine Branch,” says the New York Times; it the largest security building in Syria, held hundreds of prisoners and was said to concentrate on the surveillance of religious radicals. The other building was the “Patrols Branch” and was the center for the intelligence vehicles that operate in Damascus.
As the New York Times and Al Jazeera both report, in the past few months, an armed group called Jabhat al-Nusrah, or the Victorious Front, has claimed responsibility for earlier bombings of government and security buildings. American officials have also said that Sunni extremists, including fighters linked to Al Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate, have been linked to bombings in Damascus and Aleppo, but evidence remains “elusive.”
Both the US and the UK have condemned the attacks while Russia, Syria’s longtime ally, has accused unnamed foreign countries as behind the blasts.
About 800 people have died since a peace proposal negotiated by Kofi Annan, special envoy to the United Nations and the Arab League, was supposed to take place on April 12. Major General Robert Mood, the Norwegian officer who is in charge of the UN observer mission, was at the site of the blasts shortly after they occurred. On Wednesday, General Mood was unharmed after a bomb exploded in the road as he led a team of UN observers into Daraa, the southern city where protests began in March 2011. The escalation in violence could likely slow the already “sluggish deployment” of UN observers, only 70 out of a planned 300 who have yet arrived, says the Guardian.
Over 10,000 people have been killed in the Syrian uprising which began as peaceful protests and calls fore democracy inspired by the Arab Spring. The regime responded with bloodshed and promises of reform that have seemed not only too little but too late.
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