- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 28, 2012

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Twin suicide car bombs ripped through a Damascus suburb minutes apart on Wednesday, killing at least 34 people, state media said, and rebels claimed they shot down a Syrian air force fighter jet.

The state news agency, SANA, said suicide bombers detonated two cars packed with explosives early in the morning in the eastern suburb of Jaramana, a Christian and Druse area known as mostly loyal to President Bashar Assad.

Suicide bombings have struck regime targets in Damascus and elsewhere since last December. Such attacks are a trademark of radical Muslim groups fighting alongside other rebels units, raising concerns of growing influence of Islamic extremists among the forces seeking to topple the regime.

Wednesday’s bombs were detonated in a parking lot near a cluster of commercial buildings as groups of laborers and employees were arriving for work, killing 34 and injuring 83 people, SANA said.

The blasts shattered windows, littering the street with glass and debris. Human remains were scattered on the pavement in pools of blood. Six commercial buildings were damaged in the attacks, and dozens of cars were destroyed, SANA said.

After the first explosion, people rushed to help the injured, and then the second bomb went off, said Ismail Zlaiaa, 54, who lives in the neighborhood.

“It is an area packed with rush-hour passengers,” he said. “God will not forgive the criminal perpetrators.”

Ibtissam Nseir, a 45-year-old teacher, said the bombs exploded minutes before she set off for work. She said there were no troops around the district and wondered why the attackers would target it. Nseir blamed rebels.

“Is this the freedom which they want? Syria is a secure country and it will remain so,” she said.

There were conflicting reports about the death toll. Two hospital officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters, said at least 30 bodies were brought to two hospitals. The Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on reports from the ground, said 29 people were killed.

The different tolls could not immediately be reconciled. The regime restricts independent media coverage.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday’s bombings.

Opposition fighters are predominantly members of the Sunni Muslim majority. In their push to take Damascus, they have frequently targeted state institutions and troops. They have also often hit districts around the capital with the country’s minority communities, perceived to be allied with Assad’s Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Downtown Damascus — the seat of Assad’s power — has been the scene of scores of car bombs and mortar attacks targeting state security institutions and troops, areas with homes of wealthy Syrians, army officers, security officials and other members of the regime.

In May, two suicide car bombers blew themselves up outside a military intelligence building in Damascus, killing at least 55 people. In July, a bomb hit a building in which Cabinet ministers and senior security officials were meeting, killing the defense minister and his deputy, who was Assad’s brother-in-law. A former defense minister also died in the attack.

Story Continues →