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SYRIA: Bomb blast continues to rattle region

September 28, 2008 | 11:30 am

Imadhabib_3The shock waves from the biggest terrorist attack in Syria in more than two decades continue to rattle the region.

Diplomats from all over the world, including United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon and the U.S. State Department, condemned the Saturday morning car bomb explosion, which left at least 17 people dead and 14 injured near a security and intelligence office in a crowded residential neighborhood that is also along the way to an important Shiite Muslim shrine.

London's Asharq Alawsat newspaper, a less-than-credible mouthpiece for Saudi Arabia's royal family, said the bombing took place near a building identified as the Palestinian branch of Syrian military intelligence. It cited unnamed sources as saying that one victim, and perhaps the target, was a high-ranking intelligence officer. The report was quoted by Israeli media.

But even a Syrian opposition group prone to espousing conspiracy theories discounted that possibility on Sunday, saying that the "chance that a high-ranking officer may have been killed in the blast is very slim."

Syrian authorities are busy investigating the blast and have been mum about suspects or leads.

The privately owned Syrian newspaper Al Watan cited witnesses at the site, including a traffic cop, who said that minutes after the explosion they had seen two charred bodies in the black sedan that held the car bomb. Imad Habib (pictured), who was injured in the bombing, said he found the car "totally burnt, and in it were two burnt persons, and another two outside it. They were all dead."

Another eyewitness said the car blew up after crashing into a truck parked along a sidewalk.

Another newspaper, the official Al Thawra, published an opinion article recommending that Syria should tighten restrictions about allowing foreign visitors into the country.

"We need to be very careful in whom we let in," said the article. "We should ask, why is he here and what does he want?"

Syria lets nationals of other Arab countries enter without visas. Just a week ago, Syria deployed hundreds and possibly thousands of soldiers along its border with Lebanon, citing "domestic security."

— Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Photo: Syrian traffic policeman Imad Habib, injured by a car bomb, said he saw charred bodies in the exploded vehicle. Credit: Youssef Badawi / European Pressphoto Agency

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