Two suicide car bombs exploded near “heavily guarded intelligence buildings” in Damascus on Friday, killing military personal and civilians. At least 40 people have died and more than 100 were wounded from the blasts, Syrian authorities reported.
The bombs were the first attacks of this nature since the uprising began in March and took place a day after the Arab League arrived to monitor the country’s handling of the protesters. The attacks bookend a week of violence and bloodshed in the country, as it’s been reported the government killed at least 250 citizens in a brutal effort to crackdown on the protesting.
Syria officials blamed al-Qaeda-related terrorists for the suicide blasts but has also claimed that the entire nine-month uprising that has engulfed the country is the work of outside terrorist group and not a legitimate protest by its own people. As such, it’s unclear who is responsible for the twin suicide car bombs.
“We said it from the beginning, this is terrorism. They are killing the army and civilians,” Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad said, the Associated Press reports. Opponents of Bashar al-Assad’s regime claim the two attacks were curious in that the areas of the explosions would be incredibly difficult to access by vehicles outside the Syrian intelligence community.
Opponents even hinted the attacks were perpetrated by the Assad’s government to scare the Arab League into ruling in favor of the crackdown.
Regardless, most observers agree this is a “very serious escalation” of the violence in Syria. “The capital has been relatively quiet. If the government is trying to say this is the work of protesters or even al-Qaeda sympathisers, the attack is in the heart of the capital and that makes the government look very vulnerable,” Al Jazeera reporter Rula Amin said.
As these things often go, one escalation leads to another. Assad’s government has never been attacked like this throughout the 10 months of protesting. Given Assad’s use of violence against relatively peaceful protests — the UN estimates some 5,000 citizens have been killed since March — there’s no telling how they will react to this. One thing’s for sure: It’s getting uglier by the day.