- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 3, 2012

BEIRUT (AP) — Three suicide bombers detonated cars packed with explosives in a government-controlled area of the battleground Syrian city of Aleppo on Wednesday, killing at least 34 people, leveling buildings and trapping survivors under the rubble, state TV said. More than 120 people were injured, the government said.

A fourth explosion a few hundred yards away struck near the edge of the Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has been heavily damaged during more than two months of fierce fighting between rebels and government forces for control of the Aleppo.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the government blamed its opponents and said the blasts were caused by suicide bombers. The technique is a signature style of al-Qaeda-style jihadist groups, some of which are known to have entered Syria’s civil war to fight against the regime.

The transformation of Syria’s conflict into an open war has given an opening to foreign fighters and extremists, analysts say. The Syrian government always has blamed the uprising on foreign terrorists, even though the revolt began as peaceful protests by ordinary citizens that turned violent after repeated attacks by security forces.

The Syrian opposition denies any links to terrorists or any use of suicide attacks. A Sunni extremist group called Jabhat al-Nusra, or Victory Front, has claimed responsibility for previous bombings.

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrians walk past a crater caused by an explosion at the scene where triple bombs exploded at the Saadallah al-Jabri square, in Aleppo city, Syria, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/SANA)
In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrians ... more >

Rebels last week announced a new concerted push to capture Aleppo, where they have been battling with regime troops since July. Syria’s largest city and a major commercial hub, Aleppo was for a long time free of the violence that engulfed much of the rest of the country, but now the city has been devastated as rebels try to wrest a major strategic prize from the regime of President Bashar Assad.

The bloodshed also is increasingly spreading outside Syria’s borders.

On Wednesday, a shell fired from inside Syria landed on a home in neighboring Turkey, killing at least three people, including a 6-year-old boy, said Abdulhakim Ayhan, mayor of the Turkish town of Akcakale. Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu Agency reported that angry townspeople marched to the mayor’s office to protest the deaths.

In Aleppo, footage broadcast on state-run Ikhbariya TV showed massive damage around Saadallah al-Jabri Square, which also houses a famous hotel and a coffee shop that had been popular with regime forces. One building appeared to have been leveled to the ground. The facade of another was heavily damaged.

The station showed video of several bodies, including one being pulled from the rubble of a collapsed building. Rescue workers stood atop piles of concrete and debris, frantically trying to pull out survivors.

Syria’s state-run SANA news agency said the bombings early Wednesday killed at least 34 people and wounded 122, blaming the attack on “terrorists.”

“It was like a series of earthquakes,” a shaken resident told the Associated Press by telephone. “It was terrifying, terrifying.”

The resident said the officers club and the hotel were almost completely destroyed. His account could not be immediately verified. The resident declined to be identified for fear of reprisals.

Activists could not reach the area, which is controlled by security forces and sealed off with checkpoints.

A Syrian government official said the number of deaths likely would increase because many of the wounded were in critical condition. Regime troops killed two more would-be suicide bombers before they could detonate their explosives, he said on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations.

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