Damascus Suicide Car Bombers Kill 55

Posted May 10th, 2012 at 1:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Syrian authorities say a double suicide bombing in Damascus has killed at least 55 people and wounded another 370, making it the country's deadliest attack since an opposition uprising began 14 months ago.

State media say two suicide car bombers with 1,000 kilograms of explosives blew themselves up in quick succession in the capital's southern Qazaz district during Thursday's morning rush hour.

The blasts left a scene of carnage with charred vehicles and body parts covering the street. Witnesses say the attack appeared to target a Syrian military intelligence building and damaged its facade. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says security personnel were among those killed in the bombings.

The Syrian government blamed the bombings on terrorists whom it says are behind the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad. But Syria's main exiled opposition group, the Syrian National Council, accused the government of orchestrating the attack to try to smear the uprising and scare away a U.N. observer mission.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts. Observer chief Robert Mood, a Norwegian general, visited the scene of the attack and condemned it.

“This is a terrible kind of violence that is deplorable. It is the kind of violence that is not deserved by the Syrian people.”

International peace envoy Kofi Annan, who oversees the U.N. monitors, called the double bombing “abhorrent.” In a statement, he said the violence must stop because the Syrian people “have already suffered too much.”

The Syrian foreign ministry sent a letter to the U.N. Security Council urging it to take action against unnamed countries and groups whom Damascus accuses of “practicing and encouraging” terrorism in Syria.

The foreign minister of Russia, a key Syrian ally, made a similar accusation about external involvement in Syria's violence.

Speaking on a visit to Beijing, Sergei Lavrov said Thursday some nations, whom he did not name, are trying to “explode” the situation. Russia has complained that Western and Arab nations opposed to Mr. Assad have not put enough pressure on Syrian rebels to stop attacks.

A White House spokesman condemned the Damascus bombings as “reprehensible” and said there is no justification for “indiscriminate killing and injury.” The spokesman said the Obama administration also believes such attacks are “not representative” of Syria's opposition movement. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton denounced the attack as an “act of pure terrorism.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the blasts and repeated his call on all sides in Syria's conflict to fully to comply with Mr. Annan's peace plan that calls for an end to all violence, the protection of civilians, and a dialogue leading to a peaceful resolution of the crisis.

Thursday's attack happened one day after a roadside bombing near the rebellious southern city of Daraa wounded 10 Syrian soldiers who were escorting General Mood and other U.N. monitors. The U.N. personnel were unharmed.

The United Nations says more than 9,000 people have been killed in violence related to the anti-government uprising which erupted in March 2011.

Meanwhile, vote-counting continues from Monday's parliamentary elections in Syria. Opposition groups have dismissed the elections as a sham.