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MAJOR ESCALATION – 40 KILLED IN DAMASCUS TWIN BOMBS ATTACK

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The Syrian government says more than 40 people have been killed, on Friday 12/23/2011, in two suicide car bombings outside security service facilities in the capital, Damascus. The attack is a major escalation in the inner Syrian conflict between the pro-Iranian Bashar Asaad’s regime, considered by many Sunnis as a Shiite regime and the Sunni opposition in Syria (see also – Damascus 12.03.09).

Friday’s explosions emanated from the Eastern Qaboun district of Damascus, close to Abbasiyyin Square, and from the Jamarek area of Mezzeh, an eastern district of the capital.

State TV al-Ikhbariya al-Suriya earlier said suspected Al Qaeda militants had targeted bases of the General Security Directorate and another agency in the Kafr Sousa area. A 4×4 vehicle filled with explosives approached the building in Kafr Sousa housing the General Security Directorate. When the guards inside went outside to inspect the aftermath of the first blast, the driver of the vehicle detonated the bomb, killing a number of guards and civilians, al-Ikhbariya al-Suriya reported. The powerful General Security Directorate plays an important role in quelling internal dissent, and has been accused of widespread abuses.

But opposition activists claimed the government had staged the attacks to influence an Arab League observer team. They are part of a scheme aimed at ending the deadly crackdown on dissent.

The UN says more than 5,000 people have been killed and thousands more detained since anti-government protests erupted in March.

The monitors are tasked with overseeing the government’s compliance with an agreement that should see an end to violence by both sides, troops withdrawn from the streets and all detained protesters released (see – SYRIAM CRACKS).

Syria’s government insists that the unrest in the country is caused by “armed terrorist gangs”; that point is clearly underlined by the explosions.

Activists, who maintain their movement is peaceful, will undoubtedly regard the timing as deeply suspicious and accuse the government of staging the attacks, our correspondent adds.

It is impossible to refer to the attack just in the Syrian context and not in the way larger context of the growing rift between the Sunnis and the Shiites in the Middle East, which defines the Middle East much more than the traditional conflict between Israel and the Palestinians (see also – Baghdad 12.22.11).
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