Two bombings rock Damascus in one of largest attacks since uprising (+video)
No group has claimed responsibility for today's bombings in Damascus that killed at least 40 people, but an Al Qaeda-inspired group has claimed similar attacks in the past.
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Middle East Editor
Ariel Zirulnick is the Monitor's Middle East editor, overseeing regional coverage both for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She is also a contributor to the international desk's terrorism and security blog.
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Two explosions targeting a military intelligence facility in Damascus today have left at least 40 dead and at least 170 wounded in what government officials say might have been the largest attack on the capital since the uprising began in March 2011.
Central Damascus is under tight control of government forces, but it has been targeted by several other bombs since December, Associated Press reports. The government has blamed such bombings on Islamist militants using the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad as a cover. An Al Qaeda-inspired group has claimed responsibility for some past attacks and may be behind this one.
What is clear is that the conflict has turned violent on both sides.
Yesterday, United Nations special envoy to Syria Kofi Annan warned the country was on the brink of civil war and that adherence to a cease-fire brokered in April was the only way to step back from the ledge.
AP reports that today's bombings in Damascus were among the deadliest since large-scale attacks began in December and were followed by attacks in Idlib, Aleppo, and other cities. The targeted building is part of a compound housing a "feared section" of Syrian intelligence services, known as the Palestine Branch. The bombs went off as workers were arriving for work.
The opposition Syrian National Council insisted that the Assad regime was behind the bombings, saying it orchestrated them to arouse sympathy for the government, proving that there would be chaos without Assad, and to undermine support for the opposition by portraying them as terrorists, Agence France-Presse reports. "This is the only way for the regime to claim that what is happening in Syria is the work of terrorist gangs and that Al Qaeda is expanding its presence in Syria," said Samir Nashar, a member of the group.