[Dehai-WN] (Reuters): Damascus blasts kill civilians, soldiers - Syrian TV

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Fri, 23 Dec 2011 14:20:00 +0100

Damascus blasts kill civilians, soldiers - Syrian TV

Fri Dec 23, 2011 11:49am GMT

By Erika Solomon

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Two booby-trapped cars blew up at security sites in
Damascus on Friday, killing a number of civilians and soldiers, state
television said, in the worst violence to hit Syria's capital during nine
months of unrest against President Bashar al-Assad.

Al Manar, a television news channel owned by Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim
militant movement Hezbollah, a major ally of Assad, put the number of dead
from the blasts at 30 with 55 wounded and said most of the casualties were
civilians. Al Manar cited information from its own correspondents at the

Syrian television described the attack as a suicide bombing and said initial
inquiries indicated al Qaeda was behind it.

The attack came a day after the arrival of Arab League officials to prepare
for a monitoring team that will check whether Assad is implementing a plan
to end the bloodshed.

State television broadcast footage of bloodied bodies being carried in
blankets and stretchers into ambulances and people hunting through rubble of
a badly damaged building.

A Reuters cameraman was barred from the site. State television also
broadcast shots of bloodied streets littered with mangled human remains and
blackened debris.

State television said the blasts targeted a state security administration
building and a local security branch.

The United Nations says Assad's forces have killed more than 5,000 people in
their crackdown on the protests, which erupted in March inspired by
uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

Syria says it faces a campaign by foreign-backed gunmen and terrorist
groups. This week it said more than 2,000 members of the army and security
forces had been killed since March.

Anti-Assad protests have swept the country, although central Damascus and
the northern commercial city of Aleppo have remained relatively quiet.

A small blast was reported near a Syrian intelligence building in Damascus
last month, but there was little damage.

But in recent months the mainly peaceful pro-democracy movement has become
overshadowed by pockets of armed insurgency that have launched attacks on
Syrian security forces.

The escalating violence on both sides has raised fears that the country is
slipping towards civil war.


An advance team has arrived in Syria to prepare the way for Arab League
monitors who will judge whether Damascus is honouring a plan it agreed last
month to stop the violence.

The peace plan calls for a withdrawal of troops from the streets of
protest-hit cities and towns and their surroundings, release of prisoners
and dialogue with the opposition.

Arab League sources have said the advance team, led by top League official
Samir Seif al-Yazal, comprises a dozen people, including financial,
administrative and legal experts tasked with ensuring monitors can move
freely across Syria.

The main group of around 150 observers is to arrive by the end of December.
Syria stalled for six weeks before signing a protocol on Monday to admit the

Activists say Assad, 46, is still trying to stamp out protests with troops
and tanks despite international sanctions and his avowed agreement to the
Arab League plan.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Assad's forces carried out
major assaults in the northern and southern provinces this week, apparently
trying to crush opposition to strengthen his hand before the arrival of the

It said troops surrounded and killed 111 people on Tuesday in the northern
province of Idlib, in the deadliest assault since the uprising erupted.

France called Tuesday's killings in Idlib an "unprecedented massacre." The
United States said Syrian authorities had "flagrantly violated their
commitment to end violence" while Assad's former ally Turkey condemned
Syria's policy of "oppression which has turned the country into a

Syrian officials say more than 1,000 prisoners have been freed since the
Arab plan was agreed and the army has pulled out of cities. The government
has promised a parliamentary election early next year as well as
constitutional reform that might loosen the Baath Party's 48-year grip on

Syrian pro-democracy activists are deeply sceptical about Assad's commitment
to the plan. If implemented, it could embolden demonstrators demanding an
end to his 11-year rule, which followed three decades of domination by his

The British-based Avaaz rights group said on Thursday it had evidence of
more than 6,237 deaths of civilians and security forces in the conflict, 617
of them under torture. At least 400 of the dead were children, it added.

(Writing by Dominic Evans)

C Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved


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