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The violence was the latest blow to a peace plan brokered by special
envoy Kofi Annan that called for a cease-fire to go into effect two
weeks ago. The truce has been roundly ignored on the ground, and the
U.N. has only 15 monitors in Syria who are trying to salvage it.
In New Delhi, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon told reporters that the regime’s
continued repression of the civilian population “has reached an
unacceptable, intolerable stage.” Ban said he was “gravely alarmed” that
killings continue, despite the regime’s commitment to end violence and
withdraw troops and tanks from population centers.
“This is in clear contravention to what the Syrian government has already agreed,” Ban said.
In Damascus, Syrian TV aired footage of white smoke billowing from
under a bridge as people streamed out of a mosque. The streets were
stained with blood. The regime blamed the attack on “terrorists” trying
to destabilize the country.
Anas Haqqi, 13, said he was walking with his father when the bomb
went off. “I fell on the ground,” said the boy, who was being treated
for shoulder and leg wounds at Damascus’ Mujtahid hospital.
An Associated Press reporter on the scene saw human flesh and hair in
the street as well as a police bus that had its windows shattered. As
police cordoned off the area, security agents wearing gloves collected
remains from the street and piled them on a sheet.
A string of large-scale bombings in Damascus and elsewhere in recent
months has added a mysterious element to the anti-government revolt.
Some U.S. officials have suggested al-Qaida militants may be joining the
fray after similar attacks in the past.
The regime blames the bombings on unspecified “terrorists” — the same
term it uses to describe opposition forces that it says are carrying
out a foreign conspiracy.
But opposition activists deny any role in the blasts, blaming
government forces for carrying out the attacks as a way to tarnish the
uprising that began in March 2011.
A diplomatic push has failed to calm the crisis, and government
shelling of opposition strongholds has continued as the uprising that
began with largely peaceful protests has morphed into an armed
insurgency in response to the brutal crackdown.
Friday’s blast in the capital’s Midan neighborhood went off across the street from a mosque.
State TV reported that nine corpses were identified, and the remains
of two other people also were found. One of the remains is believed to
be the suicide bomber, according to Health Minister Nader al-Halqi.
Al-Halqi said at least seven of the dead were policemen.
Midan has been the site of frequent anti-government protests in the
past. In January, an explosion in the same neighborhood killed at least
26 people and wounded 63.
Al-Halqi also said two smaller explosions in Damascus hit the
neighborhoods of Zahra and Sreiji. The first killed a man and wounded
his wife and son, while the other wounded three people.
Later Friday, the state-run news agency, SANA, said a fourth
explosion on a road in the Adawi neighborhood wounded two people who
were in a taxi that was passing by.
The first serious explosions after the uprising began occurred on
Dec. 23 when two car bombers blew themselves up outside the heavily
guarded compounds of Syria’s intelligence agencies, killing at least 44
people in a brazen attack on the powerful security directorates. Two
weeks later, a bomb exploded at a busy Damascus intersection, killing 25
On Feb. 10, two suicide car bombers struck security compounds in the
northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest, killing 28 people. Several
other explosions occurred afterward.
Most of the big explosions targeted Damascus and Aleppo, the
country’s largest cities and economic powerhouses that have been
relatively spared from the uprising. Both cities are tightly controlled
by forces loyal to the regime.
The anti-government protests, which usually take place on Fridays
across the country, typically begin following noon prayers as
worshippers stream out of mosques.
On Friday, activists reported that thousands of people protested in
the northern city of Aleppo, the central region of Hama and the northern
province of Idlib.
An amateur video posted online Thursday showed people carrying the
body of a boy said to have been shot dead by Syrian troops in the
southern city of Daraa — apparently an attempt to display the body to
U.N. monitors nearby.
At one point some people jumped on a U.N. vehicle while others banged
on it with their hands. Others cordoned the vehicles to protect the
More observers are expected in Syrian the coming days. The U.N. has approved increasing the mission to 300 observers.
Annan’s spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said he hopes to have 25 observers on
the ground by Monday, 100 within a month of the April 12 cease-fire
The U.N. monitoring team’s spokesman said international monitors have
moved into another hot spot in Syria to try to stop the violence with
two observers stationed in the southern city of Daraa, the birthplace of
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