Bomb Attacks In Damascus Kill At Least 40

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Two bomb blasts in the Syrian capital of Damascus Friday left at least 40 dead and many more wounded. State-controlled media say suicide bombers from al-Qaida targeted government installations. It was the first attack of its kind since the Syrian uprising began in March.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

LYNN NEARY, HOST:

And I'm Lynn Neary. Two deadly explosions in the Syrian capital have opened a new chapter in that country's violent conflict. The explosions in the heart of Damascus targeted buildings housing intelligence and security officials. At least 40 people were killed. It was the first terrorist bombing since the beginning of the anti-government revolt this past March. Officials in Damascus blamed al-Qaida for the attacks, but some Syrians don't buy that explanation, as NPR's Deborah Amos reports from Beirut.

DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: Syrian state television showed the gory aftermath of a massive morning explosion.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken)

AMOS: Charred cars, wrecked buildings and mangled bodies, the unmistakable message that even Damascus is no longer safe. The official media reported that suicide car bombers had targeted some of the most heavily guarded real estate in the capital. The carnage comes a day after an advance team from the Arab League arrived to set up a monitoring operation and try to resolve the crisis. Top government officials escorted those monitors through the smoking wreckage even before the dead had been removed. The charge that al-Qaida is to blame underscores the government's claim that foreign agents and Islamist militants are behind the uprising - a point officials pressed on the monitors as they surveyed the gore at the blast site.

The explosions in Damascus overshadowed continuing reports of a violent army campaign in the north that's seen some of the bloodiest events in the 10-month-old uprising. The village of Kfar Owaid was the site of a major massacre on Tuesday, say activists and residents, when the army shelled and machine-gunned civilians who had harbored army defectors. The death toll prompted an international outcry.

Today's explosion in Damascus has been met with different responses. On Facebook and Twitter, Syrian activists charged that the Syrian government was behind the blast. Many who say they have been jailed in the bombed buildings note that security is so tight that cars can't stop anywhere near. There were more questions from regional analysts after the Syrian government's almost immediate charge of who had carried out the attacks, says Salman Shaikh at the Brookings Center in Doha.

SALMAN SHAIKH: I must say that I'm deeply skeptical about the regime's claims within 15 to 30 minutes of the blast, apparently, that al-Qaida was behind it, or an affiliation of al-Qaida.

AMOS: But in an interview with Syrian state television, the commander of the intelligence headquarters said there was proof of what he called a foreign project. Deborah Amos, NPR News, Beirut.

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