Blasts bring death to heart of Damascus

 Twin bomb attacks on security buildings brought death to the heart of Syria's capital on Saturday, as state television showed gruesome footage of smouldering bodies and a blood-splattered minibus.

Several civilians and police were killed, the television reported without giving figures, adding that preliminary reports suggested bombers had blown up vehicles packed with explosives.

"We have received about 40 wounded," a medic at one hospital told a television reporter.

The television said that the early morning attacks, minutes apart, targeted the criminal police headquarters in the Duwar al-Jamarek area and an office of Syria's air force intelligence service on Baghdad Boulevard in Al-Qasaa district.

"According to our initial information, they were car bombs," the television said, as state news agency SANA carried gruesome pictures of blackened body parts.

The state broadcaster ran footage of a charred body inside the mangled remains of a smouldering vehicle in Duwar al-Jamarek. The criminal police headquarters is seen in the background, with shutters apparently blown out.

"First pictures of the body of one of the terrorists who targeted Damascus today in Duwar al-Jamarek," a message on the screen read.

The front of a multi-storey building was gutted by the impact of the other blast and several cars destroyed. The television broadcast images of wrecked apartments and blood-splattered streets.

An anti-regime activist in Damascus, Abu Muhannad al-Mazzi, told AFP the first explosion struck at 7:30 am (0530 GMT). "A few minutes later, the second explosion, more powerful, rang out," he said.

The television showed an elderly woman being carried to an ambulance in her nightdress, while a wounded man, head bandaged and neck in a brace, was shown in hospital in his pyjamas and dressing gown.

"I don't know what happened to my son. The blood came flowing down," one woman told a television reporter. Another lying on a hospital bed sobbed: "My husband started shouting, there was blood."

Commentators on state television blamed Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the fiercest Arab critics of President Bashar al-Assad over his regime's deadly crackdown on dissent since last March, which have both called for rebels to be armed.

They carried "political, judicial and religious responsibility," one charged.

"Saudi Arabia is sending us terrorists," an angry witness said on television. "These are the friends ... of the Istanbul council," said another, referring to the opposition Syrian National Council set up in the Turkish city last August.

Witnesses interviewed in Al-Qasaa also accused Assad's critics within the Arab world.

"Look at this destruction. My parents have been injured. Our home has been destroyed. Is this the message from the Arab nations? ... Take pictures of this destruction, show the world what happened," one man said.

"Can this be allowed that our children wake up crying. God damn them and their council of pigs and the pig Hamad," said another man, referring to Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.

"We woke up to this. God damn them. God have mercy on the martyrs," said a young veiled woman.

A spate of bombings have hit Syria's big cities in recent months amid growing concerns that Al-Qaeda has taken advantage of the year-old uprising against Assad to shift its focus of operations from neighbouring Iraq.

On January 6, a car bomb exploded in Damascus killing 26 people and wounding dozens more, most of them civilians.

The blast came after twin bombs hit security services bases in the capital on December 23, with state media pointing the finger at Al-Qaeda. Twin car bombs in the northern city of Aleppo on February 10 killed 28 people.

The United States has resisted mounting calls from Qatar and Saudi Arabia for the arming of anti-regime rebels for fear that the weapons might fall into the hands of jihadists.

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri voiced his support for the Syrian uprising in a February video message released on jihadist Internet forums.

Source: AFP

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