Twin bombings struck intelligence and security buildings in the Syrian capital Damascus today, killing at least 27 people and wounding nearly 100, according to state media. State TV, quoting the health minister, said the death toll could rise. The state news agency, SANA, posted gruesome photographs online of the scene today, with mangled and charred corpses, bloodstains on the streets and twisted steel.
"All our windows and doors are blown out," said Majed Seibiyah, 29, who lives in the area. "I was sleeping when I heard a sound like an earthquake. I didn’t grasp what was happening until I hear screaming in the street."
The blasts were the latest in a string of large-scale bombings attacks targeting the Syrian regime’s military installations. The previous blasts, all suicide bombings, killed dozens of people since December, even as the regime wages a bloody crackdown against the year-old uprising against President Bashar Assad.
The government has blamed the explosions on "terrorist forces" that it claims are behind the revolt. The opposition has denied any role.
Top US intelligence officials have also pointed to al Qaida in Iraq as the likely culprit behind the previous bombings, raising the possibility its fighters are infiltrating across the border to take advantage of the turmoil. Al Qaida’s leader called for Assad’s ousting in February. A suspected al-Qaida presence creates new obstacles for the US, its Western allies and Arab states trying to figure out a way to help push Assad from power, and may also rally Syrian religious minorities, fearful of Sunni radicalism, to get behind the regime.
The Syrian opposition has denied any link to al Qaida and accuses forces loyal to the government of being behind the bombings to tarnish the uprising.
According to SANA, preliminary information indicated two blasts were caused by car bombs that hit the aviation intelligence department and the criminal security department at 7.30am local time. Shooting broke out soon after the blast and sent residents and others who had gathered in the area fleeing. A Syrian official also said there were reports of a third blast today targeting a military bus at the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, but there were no details.
The Syrian government denies there is a popular will behind the uprising, saying foreign extremists and gangs are trying to destroy the country. But opponents deny that and say an increasingly active rebel force has been driven to take up arms because the government used tanks, snipers and machine guns to crush peaceful protests.
The UN estimates that more that 8,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Assad began last March.