BEIRUT (AP) — An explosion struck near a Syrian government security building in the northern city of Aleppo Sunday while a harsh security crackdown prevented opposition rallies marking one year since the first nationwide protests in the uprising against President Bashar Assad.
The Syrian state news agency called the Aleppo explosion a “terrorist bombing” and said one policeman and one female civilian were killed, while 30 were injured. It was the second attack in two days on regime strongholds.
Three suicide bombings in the capital, Damascus, on Saturday killed 27 people. Two of them also targeted government security buildings, and the regime blamed the opposition, which it claims is made up of “terrorist” groups carrying out a foreign conspiracy.
Aleppo and Damascus, Syria‘s two largest cities, have been struck by a number of suicide bombings since December. Both are critical centers of support for Mr. Assad and have remained relatively insulated from the unrest shaking much of the country for the past year.
No one has claimed responsibility for any of the weekend attacks.
Mohammed Saeed, an Aleppo resident, said a car bomb exploded early afternoon about 200 yards from the Political Security Directorate. Security forces started shooting in the air and cordoned off the area to prevent people from approaching.
“It was a strong explosion. It shook parts of the city,” Mr. Saeed said, citing nearby residents. “White smoke was billowing from the area.”
The explosion did not seriously damage the security building, he said. But at that time of day, the city’s central Suleimaniyeh neighborhood usually is crowded with people, especially on Sunday, the first day of Syria‘s workweek.
The neighborhood has a large Christian population, Mr. Saeed said.
The string of large-scale bombings near government security buildings in Damascus and Aleppo have added a mysterious element to the anti-government revolt. After other similar attacks, U.S. officials suggested al Qaeda militants may be joining the fray.
A previously unknown Islamist group calling itself Al-Nusra Front to Protect the Levant claimed responsibility for previous attacks in a video posted online, saying it carried them out “to avenge the people of Homs.” Homs is an opposition stronghold in central Syria that has been hit hard in the government crackdown.
Al Qaeda’s involvement could further fuel the sectarian tensions that the uprising already has stoked. Al Qaeda’s supporters are largely Sunni Muslim extremists. Syria‘s military and political leadership is stacked heavily with members of the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam to which Mr. Assad and the ruling elite belong. The Alawite leaders of Syria are closely allied with Shiite Iran.
Sunnis are the majority in the country of 22 million and make up the backbone of the opposition.
The last major suicide bombing in Aleppo was on Feb. 10, when twin blasts struck security compounds, killing 28 people. Damascus has seen a half-dozen suicide bombings since December, most hitting intelligence and security buildings.
Many activists consider March 18, 2011, the start of the anti-Assad uprising. Thousands took to the streets in cities across Syria on that day, and security forces killed marchers in the southern city of Daraa.View Entire Story
'Your papers, please' must never be heard in America
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
A collection of reader guest articles, thoughts and opinions by Communities writers and breaking news and information.
Reflections on raising families in a holistic way -- with a focus on nutrition and alternative health.
Join the Communities and submit your column in response to one written, or on something totally new and unique. We want to hear from you
A carefully guided tour through the confusing world of modern bookselling and publishing.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall