This is extremely suspicious. There hasn’t been a single “terrorist” attack (much less “suicide” bombing) inside Syria since the uprising began in March. In major urban areas, with the possible exception of Alleppo, Damascus has seen the least (open) public resistance to Assad. Now, all of a sudden, the day after the observers arrive, an “al-Qaeda terrorist ‘suicide’ car bombing” occurs in a high security region of city? Smells fishy.
Twin suicide car bomb blasts ripped through an upscale Damascus district Friday, targeting heavily guarded intelligence buildings and killing at least 40 people, Syrian authorities said.
The blasts came a day after an advance team of Arab League observers arrived in the country to monitor Syria’s promise to end its crackdown on protesters demanding the ouster of President Bashar Assad. Government officials took the observers to the scene of the explosions and said it backed their longtime claims that the turmoil is not a popular uprising but the work of terrorists.
The blasts were the first such suicide bombings in Syria since the uprising began in March, adding new and ominous dimensions to a conflict that has already taken the country to the brink of civil war.
“We said it from the beginning, this is terrorism. They are killing the army and civilians,” Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad told reporters outside the headquarters of the General Intelligence Agency, where bodies still littered the ground. State TV said initial investigations indicated possible involvement by the al-Qaida terror network.
Alongside him, the head of the observer advance team, Sameer Seif el-Yazal, said, “We are here to see the facts on the ground. … What we are seeing today is regretful, the important thing is for things to calm down.”
An opposition leader raised doubts over the authorities’ version of events, suggesting the regime was trying to make its case to the observers.
Omar Idilbi, a member of the Syrian National Council, an umbrella group of regime opponents, called the explosions “very mysterious because they happened in heavily guarded areas that are difficult to be penetrated by a car.”
“The presence of the Arab League advance team of observers pushed the regime to give this story in order to scare the committee from moving around Syria,” he said, though he stopped short of accusing the regime in the blasts. “The second message is an attempt to make the Arab League and international public opinion believe that Syria is being subjected to acts of terrorism by members of al-Qaida.” […]
A military official told reporters that more than 40 people were killed and more than 100 wounded. He spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity in accordance with military rules. Earlier, state TV said most of the dead were civilians but included military and security personnel.
Maj. Gen. Rustom Ghazaleh, who heads the targeted military intelligence department, said the attacks were proof of a foreign project to strike at Syria. “We will fight this project until the last drop of blood,” he declared. […]
David Hartwell, Middle East political analyst at IHS Jane’s in London, said the timing “is certain to be viewed with suspicion by the opposition.”
“The start of the monitoring mission has been overshadowed by the attacks in Damascus, a fact that government critics may highlight as fortuitous and more than a little coincidental,” he said.
He added that the Arab League “will need to work extremely hard” to convince observers and the opposition that it is not being played by the Syrians in an effort to stall for time.