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

Russia Names US NGO 'Undesirable'

Prosecutors determine activities of National Endowment for Democracy to be 'undesirable,' paving the way for it to be outlawed on Russian territory More

Erdogan Vows 'Anti-Terror' Campaign in Syria, Iraq

Erdogan expressed confidence the 'necessary steps' will be taken by NATO leaders, who will meet Tuesday at Turkey's request More

North Korea: 'No Interest at All' in Nuke Deal

Senior US envoy Sydney Seiler visits Beijing Tuesday for talks on how to revive the stalled six-party nuclear talks with North Korea 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.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs