Blasts ravage Annan plan, over 55 killed
Syrian men carry a corpse away at the site of twin blasts in Damascus that kills at least 55 people and wounds nearly 370. AFP photoTwo suicide car bombs struck Damascus yesterday, killing at least 55 people and wounding another 372. The government and the opposition exchanged blame for the deadliest bombings since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began.
The blasts further shredded the ceasefire declared by international mediator Kofi Annan on April 12, which had already struggled to halt bloodshed pitting al-Assad’s security forces against peaceful demonstrators and an array of armed insurgents. The bombers used more than 1,000 kilograms of explosives in their vehicles, Syria’s interior ministry said, cited by state television. The blasts ripped the facade off a military intelligence building, which appeared to be the target of the attack. They also punched out craters some 3 meters wide and 2 meters deep.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the death toll was 59 and included civilians and regime forces.
State television, blaming “terrorists” for the attacks, showed mangled, smoldering vehicles, some with the charred remains of their occupants still inside. There was no claim of responsibility for the blasts, but an al-Qaeda-inspired group has claimed responsibility for several past explosions. Some witnesses said children on their way to school were also affected by the deadly blasts.
As the emergency teams carried out their grim task, filling at least 15 bags with body parts, the chief of U.N. observers in Syria, Norwegian Major General Robert Mood, arrived at the scene to inspect it. Mood said the Syrian people did not deserve this “terrible violence.”
“It is not going to solve any problems,” he said, when asked what his message was to those who are carrying out such attacks.
Following the deadly blasts, opposition leaders said that Annan’s peace plan was now dead, while Western powers insisted it remained the best method of moving forward. Annan himself condemned the “abhorrent” bombings and urged all parties to halt violence and protect civilians. “The Syrian people have already suffered too much,” he said in a statement.
Russia, the European Union and the United States condemned the blasts in separate statements. The U.S. embassy in Beirut called a double bombing “reprehensible and unacceptable,” but said it would not change U.S. demands that the Syrian government implement an U.N.-backed peace plan.
World powers condemn blasts
“The United States condemns in the strongest terms the attacks that took place today in Damascus,” the U.S. embassy said in statements posted on Twitter. “We continue to call on the Syrian regime to fully and immediately implement the Annan plan,” the U.S. embassy in Lebanon said.
Russia strongly condemns recent “terrorist” attacks in Syria, its foreign ministry said yesterday. In a meeting with the Syrian ambassador to Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov “decisively condemned the terrorist acts that have taken place in Syria in recent days,” the ministry said in a statement.
“We strongly condemn the twin bomb attacks,” said Michael Mann, spokesman for EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton. He said the morning blasts appeared to be “an act of pure terrorism from what we see initially.” The attacks came a day after the Norwegian general commanding U.N. ceasefire observers escaped unharmed when a roadside bomb exploded as he led a team into the flashpoint southern city of Daraa. “We urge everybody to fall in behind the Annan plan,” he said. Activists called for mass anti-regime demonstrations in Damascus today. “Residents of Damascus, rise up, liberate your city from this regime of killers,” said the Syrian Revolution 2011 activist group on Facebook.
Suicide bombers had previously hit two security service bases in the capital on December 23, killing 44 people. The most recent bombing was on April 27, when 11 people were killed by a suicide bombing.
Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.