May 18, 2013
At least 40 killed in Syrian blasts
Two car bomb attacks on Syrian security sites in Damascus killed at least 40 people and wounded 55 others, most of them civilian, the Lebanese news channel Al Manar said today.
Al Manar cited information from its own correspondents on the ground. The television channel is owned by the powerful Lebanese Shi'ite party and guerrilla movement Hezbollah, a regional Syrian ally.
Foreign press was not allowed to enter the site, but video broadcast by the state news channel showed smoke rising from buildings with holes blasted through them, and the charred remains of the cars.
It said initial investigations indicated that al Qaeda was behind the attacks.
A witness who spoke to press by telephone said two blasts shook the capital and the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the blasts were followed by bursts of heavy gunfire.
The attacks came a day after the first wave of an Arab League observation mission landed in Damascus to prepare for an monitoring team that will check if Syria is implementing a peace plan to halt months of bloodshed.
Syrian security forces have launched a fierce crackdown on nine months of anti-government protests that has left 5,000 people dead, according to the United Nations.
Syria says it is fighting foreign-backed "terrorists" that have killed 2,000 members of its security forces.
In recent months, the peaceful pro-democracy movement that began in March has been overshadowed by pockets of armed insurgency that have begun to launch what they call defensive attacks against Syrian forces.
Friday's attacks hit a state security administration building and a local security branch, state television said.
Last month, a small blast was reported near a Syrian intelligence building in Damascus, but there was little damage.