News / Middle East

Mass Protests Across Syria, Bomb Plot Foiled

An image grab taken from a video on YouTube allegedly shows an anti-government demonstration in Kafrruma, Syria, May 11, 2012.
An image grab taken from a video on YouTube allegedly shows an anti-government demonstration in Kafrruma, Syria, May 11, 2012.
VOA News

Mass protests broke out across Syria on Friday, a day after at least 55 people were killed in twin bombings that marked the deadliest attack since the start of the anti-government uprising 14 months ago.

The car bomb explosions in Damascus Thursday were among a string of attacks that have occurred since U.N. observers arrived in Syria to monitor a shaky cease-fire brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan.

State television reported Friday that troops killed a suspected suicide bomber in the northern city of Aleppo. The report said the would-be attacker's car was filled with 1,200 kilos of explosives.

The Syrian government on Friday urged the U.N. Security Council to take action to combat terrorism, in the wake Thursday's blasts.

State media said the government made the plea in letters to the Security Council and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon. It said "escalating crimes" were proof that Syria is facing terrorist attacks led by groups receiving foreign support.
 

  • People gather at the site of an explosion, as seen from a damaged house close to the site in Damascus May 10, 2012.
  • Syrian inspectors investigate the crater in front of a damaged military intelligence building where two bombs exploded in Damascus, Syria, May 10, 2012.
  • People and security personnel try to remove a car from an explosion site in Damascus.
  • An injured man is carried after an explosion in Damascus.
  • Syrian gather in front of the facade of the damaged military intelligence building where two bombs exploded.
  • A medic helps a wounded soldier at the site of an explosion in Damascus.
  • Syrian security officers shout slogans in front of a damaged military intelligence building where two bombs exploded.
  • Residents and security personnel gather at the site of an explosion in Damascus.
  • The chief of the U.N. Supervision Mission to Syria, Norwegian Major General Robert Mood (C), and his team inspect the site of an explosion in Damascus.

Monitors fan out

U.N. observers toured Damascus on Friday as protesters against the government of President Bashar al-Assad gathered in several cities and towns. There were unconfirmed reports of some injuries.

Observer mission spokesman Neeraj Singh said the number of international monitors and staff members taking part in the mission had grown to 50.

"You have the world coming together, the world community coming together to be with the people of Syria to see in what way we can help," he said. "The most important thing being that violence in all its forms has to stop."


Syria - Damascus Attacks Factbox

  • There have been several attacks in Damascus since the anti-government uprising began 14 months ago. These were the most deadly:
  • December 2011: Two suicide bombings kill 44 people outside an intelligence compound.
  • January 2012: A suicide blast kills 25 people, many of them police, at an intersection.Text
  • March 2012: Two car bombs kill 27 people near intelligence and security buildings.Text
  • April 2012: Explosions kill 10 people.Text
  • May 2012: Twin bombings kill 55 people.
However, there are growing concerns that Thursday's twin suicide bombings are a signal the situation is about get much worse, especially after U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters U.S. intelligence indicates there is "an al-Qaida presence in Syria."

"What we’re seeing in Syria now is a very dangerous escalation of violence. It is becoming a lot more deadly, a lot more sophisticated," said terror analyst MJ Gohel.

Gohel is executive director of the London-based Asia-Pacific Foundation. He said the twin suicide bombings in Damascus bear all the hallmarks of an al-Qaida attack, with the first blast designed to scare people out of their offices and buildings, and right into the second blast.

But Gohel warned it would be premature to blame al-Qaida.

"Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is now the leader of al-Qaida, has issued a number of messages urging the rebels in Syria to join the cause of al-Qaida but he has found no traction there whatsoever," he said.

Outside forces blamed

Still, that has not stopped both the Syrian government and opposition groups from pointing a finger at the terrorist organization.

The head of Syria's main opposition group, in Tokyo Friday, blamed the Damascus bombings on al-Qaida-linked forces with ties to the Syrian government.  Burhan Ghalioun accused the government of trying to sabotage the peace plan brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan.

Jeffrey White, a defense fellow at the Washington Institute and former analyst with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, said such a scenario is certainly plausible. He added that there is a strong belief within the intelligence community that the Assad regime has ties with al-Qaida in Iraq.

But it's unlikely government forces would attack supporters, he said.

"For the regime to attack either directly or indirectly its own primary supporting mechanisms seems a little bit of a stretch," White said. "Many of these attacks are against the very forces the regime depends on for it survival."

The Assad government accuses the opposition forces of siding with al-Qaida, something Bassam Imadi with Syrian National Council, strongly denied.

"The opposition doesn't benefit from that," he said from Istanbul Friday.  "The opposition or the fighters on the ground, the Free Syrian Army or other people who are working with the Free Syrian Army, do not have the means or the explosives to start such explosions."

Some analysts say that the opposition is an unlikely culprit.

"Suicide bombings are the hallmark of religious extremism, the kind of distorted version of Islam," said Arie Kruglanski, a terror expert and professor of psychology at the University of Maryland.  "I do not think that in the name of democracy or in the name of good governance people would be ready to commit suicide. Religion and jihadism are very powerful justifying ideology."

Anger builds

Kruglanski said what the emergence of suicide bombers may indicate most strongly is the level of anger and frustration building within Syria.

"It is possible that there is a rage and tremendous anger at the government which makes it easier to commit suicide bombing in order to take vengeance," he said.

Analysts say it will likely take time to determine exactly who is responsible for the growing number of bombings and suicide attacks. In the meantime, they warn Syria could become mired in a ever-messier conflict that could well descend into civil war.

And, if groups like al-Qaida do not have a strong foothold in Syria now, the escalating conflict could serve as an open invitation.

"Al-Qaida's strategy has always been to go into any country where there has been a breakdown of any kind of law and order and to perpetrate violence," Gohel said.  "And they would hope that in that chaos that they would have the capability to fill the vacuum and establish some kind of foothold, which they have done for instance in countries in the past like Afghanistan."

 

Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid