- Associated Press - Saturday, May 5, 2012

BEIRUT (AP) — An explosion in a car wash in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo killed at least five people on Saturday, activists said, while another blast in the capital destroyed nine cars.

Bomb attacks have grown more common in Syria’s two largest cities as the uprising against President Bashar Assad grows increasingly militarized. Many in the opposition have taken up arms since protesters first took to the street in March 2011 and now regularly clash with government forces around the country.

But Aleppo and Damascus have remained largely in Assad’s grip, shaken only by bomb blasts that often appear to target buildings associated with the military and security services.

The U.N. says more than 9,000 people have been killed since the uprising’s start.

Saturday’s blast in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, hit a car wash and killed six people, Aleppo activist Mohammed Saeed said via Skype. He said the business in the city’s southern Sukari neighborhood is owned by a man who serves in pro-government militias known as the shabiha.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on activists inside Syria, said five people were killed in the attack.

The blast follows increasing unrest in the city with university students taking to the streets and being violently dispersed by security forces.

A 16-year-old was shot dead during a protest Friday, one day after four students were killed during arrest raids in university dorms.

Also Saturday, an explosive planted under an army vehicle in Damascus blew up, damaging nine cars.

The blast shook a downtown neighborhood near a military food cooperative, and left a crater in the street, according to a reporter from The Associated Press who visited the scene.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the explosions.

Earlier this week, attacks on a government security compound and the country’s central bank killed nine and injured 100.

On the outskirts of the capital, tanks and troops combed through fields near the Barzeh neighborhood in the northeast as well as an area near Hamouriya in the east, activist Omar Hamzeh said via Skype.

“They are moving through the fields and firing anti-aircraft guns,” he said, adding that the regime was probably looking to arrest activists. “The rural areas around there have been very active in protests against the regime.”

The Observatory also reported army raids in Barzeh.

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