An Islamist group calling itself “al-Nusra Front” claimed responsibility for the latest suicide bombing in Damascus—which killed 11 at the city’s Zain al-Abideen mosque during Friday prayers April 27. Although it seems two worshippers were among those killed, the assailant blew himself up amid members of the security forces who were gathered outside the mosque, which is popular with Sunni opponents of the Assad regime and has gained a reputation as a launch site for protests. Scores of government troops are now routinely mobilized to the mosque on Fridays. In a statement posted on the Islamist web forum al-Shamukh, the previously unknown al-Nusra also claimed responsibility for a January suicide bombing in the same Damascus district of Midan, and other bombings in Damascus and Aleppo. It said Friday’s bombing targeted the “aggressors who surround the houses of God” to attack worshippers after weekly prayers. (Reuters, April 29; IBN, Vatican Radio, April 28; NDTV, April 27)
As with the previous such blasts in recent months, the opposition has speculated that the Zain al-Abideen bombing was the work of the regime-sponsored agents in a provocation (“false flag”) tactic.
But Iran wasted no time in charging that such “terrorist actions” are the work of foreign governments that back the Syrian opposition. Iran “condemns [the] terrorist act that resulted in killing and injuring Syrian people and also condemns foreign intervention,” said deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs, Hossein Amirabdolahian, in an official statement. “The parties who back sending weapons to Syria are responsible for killing innocent people. Some parties, by sending weapons and [committing] terrorist actions in this country, are pursuing their own specific goals.”
Amirabdolahian stressed that the solution to the Syrian unrest should be a “solely political one,” that incorporates reforms promised by Assad. “Some parties consider themselves above the UN and its special envoy’s plan and are trying to impose their will with hasty actions,” he said. Although Amirabdolahian did not name them, Iran’s Gulf Arab rivals Qatar and Saudi Arabia are said to be among the strongest advocates of arming Syria’s rebels—although both governments insist they do not yet do so. US officials have voiced suspicion that Iran is supplying Assad’s regime with weapons and military advisers, but this is similarly denied by Tehran. (NOW Lebanon, April 28)
In Lebanon, military authorities have seized a Sierra Leone-flagged ship loaded with light and heavy weapons apparently bound for the Syrian rebels, and arrested the 11-member crew. (Lebanon Daily Star, April 30)
UN observers continue to call for all sides respect to respect the supposed “ceasefire”—as daily violence continues. A full 32 people were killed on April 28, more than two weeks into the ceasefire brokered by international peace envoy Kofi Annan, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. (Middle East Online, April 29)
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More terror, tear gas in Syria
Syrian government troops used tear gas on May 5 to try to disperse a mass funeral attended by thousands of people who took to the streets of Damascus to mourn slain protesters, a rights group said. The protests were staged after bomb blasts again rocked Damascus and the country’s second city Aleppo earlier that day, leaving at least three dead. Three soldiers were wounded in the Damascus attack, but the three dead in Aleppo seem to have been civilians—including a 10-year-old boy. The bomb targeted a car wash. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 600 people have been killed nationwide since the supposed ceasefire went into effect April 12. (Middle East Online, May 5)