Sun, Mar 18, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Damascus blasts kill 27, as Syria waits for monitors

AFP, DAMASCUS

A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency yesterday shows destroyed vehicles following two bomb attacks on security buildings in the heart of Damascus which killed dozens of people, state television said.

Photo: AFP

Two huge bomb blasts killed at least 27 people and wounded almost 100 in central Damascus yesterday, state media said, as special envoy Kofi Annan geared up for a monitoring mission to end the year-long bloodshed in Syria.

The early morning “terrorist” attacks, apparently car bombings just minutes apart, targeted criminal police headquarters in the Duwar al-Jamarek area and air force intelligence offices in al--Qasaa District, state television said.

“Twenty-seven people, mostly civilians, were killed and 97 others wounded in the two explosions,” Wael al-Halaqi said on Syria News, an official television channel.

Angry residents vented their fury at Arab supporters of anti-regime activists, he said.

The front of a multi-story building was totally gutted by the impact of the other blast and several cars destroyed. The television broadcast images of wrecked apartments and blood-splattered streets.

An anti-regime activist in Damascus, Abu Muhannad al-Mazzi said the first blast struck at 7:30am

“A few minutes later, the second explosion, more powerful, rang out,” he said.

Commentators on state television blamed Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the fiercest Arab critics of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over his regime’s deadly crackdown on dissent since March last year, which have both called for rebels to be armed.

“Saudi Arabia is sending us terrorists,” a resident of the devastated areas said on television. “These are the friends ... of the Istanbul council,” said another, referring to the opposition Syrian National Council set up in Turkey in August last year.

A spate of bombings have hit Syria’s big cities in recent months amid growing concerns that al-Qaeda has taken advantage of the uprising against al-Assad. The opposition has accused the regime of having stage-managed the attacks.

On Friday, UN-Arab League peace envoy Annan warned of a regional “escalation” of the deadly conflict and urged the UN Security Council to close ranks to put pressure on al-Assad.

The former UN secretary--general, who met al-Assad in Damascus last weekend, has ordered a team of UN experts to Syria, on a trip scheduled to start today, to discuss a possible ceasefire and international monitoring mission, his spokesman said.

“We tend to focus on Syria, but any miscalculation that leads to major escalation will have impact in the region which would be extremely difficult to manage,” he told reporters in Geneva, according to an official transcript.

The council has been unable to pass a resolution condemning the violence. Russia and China have twice used their veto powers as permanent members to block resolutions, which they said were unbalanced.

Annan told the Security Council via videoconference that he has had a “disappointing” response from al-Assad so far to his proposals, diplomats at the meeting said.

The Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the country would cooperate with Annan and at the same time pursue its crackdown on “armed terrorist gangs,” which it holds responsible for the year of bloodshed.

Thousands of anti--government protesters called on Friday for foreign military intervention to bring down al-Assad. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 18 people were killed across the country.

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