Mustafa, a rebel from the town of Bennish, watches for a sniper firing down a street in the town of Harem, Syria.(Photo: Mustafa Karali, AP)
DAMASCUS, Syria (-- Twin car bombs ripped through a Damascus
suburb on Wednesday, killing at least 34 people and leaving dozens
critically wounded, according to state media and hospital officials.
state news agency, SANA, said two cars packed with explosives detonated
early in the morning in the eastern Jaramana suburb, a district that is
mostly loyal to President Bashar Assad. The area is populated mostly by
Christians and Druse, a minority sect.
A series of blasts have
struck regime targets in Damascus and elsewhere since last December,
raising fears of a rising Islamic militant element among the forces
seeking to topple Assad.
Wednesday's car bombs went off in a
parking lot located between two commercial buildings. They were
detonated within five minutes of one another as groups of laborers and
employees were arriving to work.
The blasts shattered windows in
nearby buildings, littering the street with glass and debris. Human
remains were scattered on the pavement, amid pools of blood.
There were conflicting reports about the death toll, however.
hospital officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they
were not authorized to talk to the media, said at least 30 bodies were
brought to two nearby hospitals. Activists with the Britain-based
Observatory for Human Rights say 29 people were killed. The activist
group relies on reports from the ground.
The different tolls could not immediately be reconciled. Syria restricts independent media coverage.
conflict in Syria started 20 months ago as an uprising against Assad,
whose family has ruled the country for four decades. The conflict
quickly morphed into a civil war, with rebels taking up arms to fight
back against a bloody crackdown by the government. According to
activists, some 40,000 people have been killed since March 2011.
blames the revolt on a conspiracy to destroy Syria, saying the uprising
is being driven by foreign "terrorists" - a term the authorities use
for the rebels - and not Syrians seeking change.
Analysts say most
of those fighting Assad's regime are ordinary Syrians and soldiers who
have defected, disenchanted with the authoritarian government. But
increasingly, foreign fighters and those adhering to an extremist
Islamist ideology are turning up on the front lines. The rebels try to
play down the Islamists' influence for fear of alienating Western
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday's bombings.
fighting to topple Assad are predominantly members of the Sunni Muslim
majority. In their push to take Damascus, they have frequently targeted
state institutions and troops around the country. They have also often
hit districts around the capital with the country's minority
communities, perceived to be allied with Assad's Alawite sect, an
offshoot Shiite group that dominates the regime.
- the seat of Assad's power - has seen scores of car bombs and mortar
attacks, targeting state security institutions and troops, as well as
areas with homes of wealthy Syrians, army officers, security officials
and other members of the regime.