Damascus blasts kill 40, wound 170 – Syrian TV


Two large explosions killed 40 people in Damascus state media said, destroying dozens of cars on a highway and damaging an intelligence complex involved in President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on a 14-month-old uprising.

Syrian television blamed “terrorists” for the morning rush-hour blasts, which were the deadliest to hit the capital since the revolt began. It showed mangled, burnt and smouldering vehicles, some containing incinerated human remains, and said more than 170 people were wounded.

One of the explosions wreaked damage over a wide area, punching a crater 3 metres (10 feet) deep into the tarmac. Bloodied corpses and body parts could be seen on the road, Reuters reports.

The explosions occurred a day after a bomb blast near U.N. observers monitoring a U.N. ceasefire deal – which state forces and rebels have both violated – and two weeks after authorities said a suicide bomber killed at least nine people in Damascus.
“This is yet another example of the suffering brought upon the people of Syria from acts of violence,” said Major-General Robert Mood, the head of the U.N. monitors who toured the site.
“We have seen it here in Damascus and we have seen it in other cities and villages across the country… I call on everyone within and outside Syria to help stop this violence.”

Opposition to Assad, which began with peaceful protests in March last year, has grown increasingly militarised and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said this week he was worried by an “alarming upsurge” in bombings.

Damascus residents said Thursday’s explosions struck in the same area almost simultaneously, shortly before 8 a.m. (0500 GMT). Video footage sent to media by activists showed two columns of smoke, one of them forming a dark heavy cloud.

State television showed the crater in the city’s southern ring road and at least one overturned lorry. Walls of buildings on either side of the wide avenue had collapsed.


Shooting could be heard in the background of the footage, filmed shortly after the blasts.

A man walking around the wreckage pointed at the charred remains of cars. “Is this freedom?” he said. “This is the work of the Saudis,” he added, referring to the Gulf state that has advocated arming rebels seeking to oust Assad.

Nadine Haddad, a candidate in Monday’s parliamentary election which was boycotted by most opposition figures, blamed Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, who also says Syrian rebels should get weapons.
“I am addressing Sheikh Hamad and I tell him shame on you. You are now destroying the Syrian people, not the Syrian regime. You are killing children going to school,” she said.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least one of the explosions was caused by a car bomb and that the target was intelligence buildings.

The blasts caused limited damage to the facade of the nearby Palestine Branch Military Intelligence complex, one resident told Reuters. The Palestine Branch is one of the most feared of more than 20 secret police organisations in the country.

The United Nations says Syrian forces have killed more than 9,000 people in their crackdown on the protests. Syrian authorities blame foreign-backed Islamist militants for the violence, saying they have killed 2,600 soldiers and police.

A U.N.-brokered ceasefire was declared four weeks ago but despite an initial drop in the level of violence, bloodshed has continued. Activists say government forces have shelled several cities, and rebels have kept up attacks on security forces.

Ban told the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday he was worried by the increase in bomb attacks in Syria.
“There is no escaping the reality that we see every day,” he said. “Innocent civilians dying, government troops and heavy armour in city streets, growing numbers of arrests and allegations of brutal torture, an alarming upsurge in the use of IEDs and other explosive devices throughout the country.”