JNN 12 May 2012 DAMASCUS – At least 55 people were killed and 370 others wounded when twin suicide bombings shook an intelligence complex in the Syrian capital of Damascus on Thursday, the latest in a string of bombings that has been pushing the UN- backed peace plan in Syria to the verge of breaking down.
The Syrian interior ministry said in a statement that the bombings were caused by two explosive-laden vehicles, driven by suicide bombers.
It said the booby-trapped vehicles were loaded with more than 1, 000 kg of explosives, adding that the remains of 15 unidentified people were packed in bags.
The first blast occurred at 7:55 a.m. local time (0455 GMT), while the second took place less than a minute after the first one.
The ministry said 15 cars were totally burnt and more than a hundred others were damaged, vowing to track down the “criminals and those who harbor and fund them.” It added that it would not be tolerant with those who are messing with the country’s security and stability.
At the blast site, the facade of the targeted compound, known as Palestine Branch, was ripped off and stains of fresh blood were seen everywhere in the street. Paramedics were frantically loading the injured into ambulances.
The explosions left two craters at the entrance of the compound. One of them was three meters deep and eight meters wide and the other one was one meter deep and three meters wide.
Nearby building’s windows were blasted out and shards of glass were strewn over the floor. A nearby primary school was also damaged by the blast.
A woman at the scene of the explosion told Xinhua that “People were sleeping… what is the guilt of children and houses that were destroyed?… The Syrian army is here to protect the homeland. .. We are here in Syria and Bashar al-Assad is the one who has raised the dignity of Syria.”
Another woman grabbed Xinhua’s microphone to her side, yelling that “We protect our country and don’t need anyone… Is that the freedom they want?… to kill children, women and army officers.”
Right after the blast, the head of UN observers in Syria, Maj- Gen Robert Ford, visited the site. He called on all those who stand behind these explosions, whether they are inside Syria or outside, to realize that such explosions cause nothing but more suffering to the Syrians.
“It is not going to solve any problems,” he said, adding that ” It is only going to create more suffering for women and children.”
Russian Ambassador in Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin condemned the two blasts, stressing that foreign powers and armed groups who are irritated of the stability in Syria commit these terrorist acts to undermine security in the country.
In an interview with Lebanese al-Manar TV, Zasypkin reiterated his country’s rejection of any foreign interference in Syria’s internal affairs.
Meanwhile, the UN-Arab League joint envoy Kofi Annan severely condemned Thursday’s blasts, his spokesman Ahamd Fawzi said in a statement.
“He (Annan) is saddened by the loss of life resulting from the two blasts and extends his condolences to the families of the victims,” said the statement.
“These abhorrent acts are unacceptable and the violence in Syria must stop,” Annan said, reiterating his call to all parties to adhere to the cessation of violence.
“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.
On Tuesday, Annan urged the Syrian government and the opposition to halt violence, “otherwise Syria would descend into full civil war.”
“The violence must stop and a credible process of political dialogue must begin,” he said, warning that a civil war “will not only affect Syria, it will have an impact on the whole region.”
Annan made it clear that there have been numerous violations to his six-point peace plan that was meant to help bringing the 14- month unrest in Syria to a close, by calling for a halt of violence to pave the way for a political settlement.
The UN observers, who arrived in Syria last month to monitor the implementation of Annan’s plan, witnessed on Wednesday a blast of a roadside bomb that ripped through a security vehicle accompanying the UN delegation while heading to southern Daraa province.
The UN-brokered ceasefire has done little to stem the violence in Syria amid daily reports of murders, bombings, kidnapping and acts of arson and sabotage.
The International committee of the Red Cross on Tuesday described the fighting in Syria as an “armed conflict.”
Thursday’s blast is the latest in a string of bombings that have targeted dozens of military and security compounds across the country. An al-Qaida-inspired group calling itself al-Nusra Front to Protect the Levant claimed responsibility for previous suicide bombings.