Suicide bombings rock Aleppo, Syria. Who is behind them? (+video)
Three powerful explosions rocked the main square in a government-controlled central district of Aleppo, Syria, Wednesday. Nobody has yet claimed responsibility, but previous bombings in the city have raised concerns that Al Qaeda is operating in the area.
Three suicide bombers detonated cars packed with explosives in the main square of the northern city of Aleppo on Wednesday, killing at least 33 people, leveling buildings and trapping survivors under the rubble, Syrian state TV said.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Battle for the heart of Syria: inside Aleppo
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A fourth explosion a few hundred meters (yards) away also struck near the edge of the Old City, a world heritage site, where rebels and government forces have been battling in fierce street fighting.
Long free of the violence that has engulfed much of the rest of the country, Aleppo in the past two months has become a key battleground between regime forces and rebels trying to oust President Bashar Assad. The opposition launched an initial offensive on the city, Syria's largest and commercial hub, in July, which has left large swaths of the ancient city shattered.
Rebels last week announced a new concerted push to capture Aleppo, which would be a major strategic prize, giving the victor new momentum. It would also provide the opposition with a base, with easy logistical supply lines with Turkey to the north, from which to carry out their fight against the regime in the rest of the country.
Syria's state-run SANA news agency said the bombings early Wednesday, which targeted Saadallah al-Jabri square, were carried out by "terrorists" and killed at least 33 people and wounded dozens more. Authorities refer to rebels fighting to topple Assad as terrorists and armed gangs.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks. Previous bombings in Aleppo and Damascus have raised concerns that the al-Qaida terror network is becoming increasingly active in Syria. Jabhat al-Nusra, or Victory Front, a Sunni extremist group in Syria, claimed responsibility for many of them.
Footage broadcast on the state-run Ikhbariya channel showed massive damage around the square, which also houses a famous hotel and a coffee shop that had been popular with regime forces. One building appeared leveled to the ground. The facade of another was heavily damaged.
The station showed video of several bodies, including one being pulled from the rubble of a collapsed building. Rescue workers stood atop piles of concrete and debris, frantically trying to pull out survivors.
"It was like a series of earthquakes," said a shaken resident who declined to be identified for fear of reprisals. "It was terrifying, terrifying."
Speaking to the AP by telephone, the resident said the officers' club and the hotel were almost completely destroyed. His account could not be immediately verified, although the TV footage showed at least one building reduced to rubble.
Activists could not reach the area, which is controlled by security forces and sealed off with checkpoints.