Deadly bombing hits Syrian capital


A suicide bombing hit Damascus on Friday, killing 25 and wounding dozens of mostly civilians, state media said, blaming “terrorists” for the second such attack on the Syrian capital in two weeks. State television said the “powerful explosion” struck in the historic Midan quarter in the heart of the capital. The attack, which took place in a heavily populated neighbourhood near a school, killed 25 people and wounded 45 others, the television said, adding the casualties were mostly civilians and also some security personnel.
It showed gruesome footage of rescuers gathering body parts in the streets and placing them in plastic trash bags, in an area where damaged cars and buses could be seen splattered with blood. Angry residents were at the scene shouting and denouncing the bombing as the work of “terrorists”. The Local Coordination Committees, an opposition activist group which has organised anti-regime protests since March, said in a statement sent to AFP in Nicosia that another explosion was heard in the Damascus suburb of Tal.
And the official SANA news agency reported that a “terrorist group” had blown up an oil pipeline between the central city of Hama and Idlib in the northwest. The powerful December 23 bombings sparked a swirl of claims and counter-claims over who was responsible, with the authorities saying they were likely the work of Al-Qaeda and the opposition pointing the finger at the regime. The latest attack came ahead of mass protests called by pro-democracy activists to demand an Arab League observer mission, in Syria for two weeks, admit its failure to stem nearly 10 months of bloodshed and hand over to the United Nations.
The privately-owned Dunia television channel, which is close to the authorities, said that an observer team went to the scene of the bombing but made no comments to journalists at the scene. The Arab League observer mission has been in Syria since December 26 trying to assess whether President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is complying with a peace accord aimed at ending its deadly crackdown on dissent. But there has been no let-up in security force fire against civilian demonstrators with two killed on Friday in Hama and 10 wounded in the southern city of Daraa, cradle of the protests that erupted in mid-March, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP in Nicosia.
Protests were also reported in Syria’s second city Aleppo and third city Homs, in the port city of Latakia, in Deir Ezzor in the northeast and in Douma on the northern outskirts of the capital. In Homs, a 36-year-old was killed by a security force bullet while sitting on his balcony, the Observatory added. The head of the rebel Free Syrian Army has called on the Arab League to admit the mission has been a failure and urged the bloc to seek UN help to end the bloodshed. Colonel Riyadh al-Asaad, in a telephone interview with AFP in Beirut on Thursday, said: “We hope they will announce that their mission was a failure. “We call on the Arab League to step aside and let the United Nations take over responsibility as it is more apt to find solutions.”