Morning explosions kill dozens in Damascus
REPORTING FROM BEIRUT -- Syrians weary of a year of conflict woke up Saturday to more bloody news -- a pair of bombs stunned the Syrian capital early Saturday, the latest in a series of such attacks in Damascus and other Syrian cities, state-run media reported.
The government news service said “scores” were killed, while news agencies monitoring Syrian television reported that authorities said at least 27 had died and about 100 had been injured.
Syrian television broadcast gruesome scenes of destruction, including blood-spattered streets, multi-story buildings blown apart, smoldering vehicles and scattered body parts.
Distraught residents interviewed amid the rubble expressed outrage and blamed Arab countries, the United States and other nations supporting the ongoing uprising seeking to overthrow the government of President Bashar Assad. The attacks seem certain to heighten the sense of uncertainty and insecurity in the capital, which largely has been insulated from the violence elsewhere in the country.
Syrian authorities said the “terrorist attacks” were likely car bombs, both reportedly detonated near security service offices. The official Syrian Arab News Agency said the car bombs targeted “two crowded" districts.
The explosions come as a special peace envoy, former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, was scheduled to send a team into Damascus in a bid to help craft a cease-fire in the bloody rebellion, which began with street protests a year ago. The attacks also follow government offensives that have managed to scatter armed rebels from several rebellious provinces and the cities of Homs in central Syria, Dara in the south and Idlib in the northwest.
At least 10,000 people, including civilians, rebels and security personnel, have been killed since the uprising began, according to United Nations and Syrian government figures.
The Assad administration has blamed insurgent “terrorists” for the series of car bomb attacks. The strikes have recalled for many Syrians the devastating wave of car bombs that helped destabilize neighboring Iraq following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein.
Opposition forces have denied being behind the car bomb attacks and blamed the strikes on government operatives trying to smear the uprising as a terrorist movement.
U.S. intelligence officials have said the car bombs may indicate that the Al Qaeda movement has joined opposition forces seeking to overthrow the government of Assad. But no specific forensic evidence has publicly emerged linking the car bombings to any group or faction.
Previous car bombs have killed scores in Damascus and Aleppo, Syria’s two major cities. Both are considered strongholds of support for the Assad government and, apart from car bombs, have seen relatively little violence compared to other Syrian cites -- especially the central city of Homs, where several neighborhoods have become battlegrounds between government forces and armed rebels.
-- Patrick J. McDonnell
Photo: Security officers gather in front of a building hit by one of two explosions in Damascus, Syria. Credit: Bassem Tellawi / Associated Press