A pair of powerful explosions ripped through Syria’s capital, killing at least 50 people in the deadliest attack in the country’s 14-month uprising. Some 170 people were wounded, according to state television.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but local TV reports called the attacks “terrorist bombings”.
The explosions damaged a military intelligence building and left blood and human remains in the streets, according to The Associated Press.
The BBC reports that the two explosions occurred around 8 a.m. as people were heading to work – the first explosion apparently was calculated to attract people to the scene when a second, much larger blast occurred.
Television showed mangled and burned-out vehicles and two large craters in the road.
The AP says:
An al-Qaida-inspired group has claimed responsibility for several large explosions targeting mostly security facilities since December, raising fears that extremist groups are entering Syria’s conflict and exploiting the chaos.
The regime has used the bombings to support its claims that terrorists rather than a popular uprising are behind Syria’s violence.
The latest major explosion in the capital occurred on April 27 when a suicide bomber detonated an explosives belt near members of the security forces, killing at least nine people and wounding 26.
Despite the attacks, President Bashar Assad’s forces are firmly in control of central Damascus.
The attack further threatens a shaky cease-fire worked out by the U.N. International envoy Kofi Annan condemned the attack and called on both the government and opposition fighters to respect the agreement.
“These abhorrent acts are unacceptable and the violence in Syria must stop,” Annan said in a statement released in Geneva. “Any action that serves to escalate tensions and raise the level of violence can only be counter-productive to the interests of all parties,” he said.