Syria blames al-Qaeda for bombings, FSA says closing in on heart of Damascus

by Abbas Deiri and Nuha Shabaan

February 22, 2013

 The Syrian government blamed “al-Qaeda-linked armed terrorist groups” on Friday in a letter of complaint to the UN Security Council for a wave of bombs that went off in the Syrian capital the day before.  

The bombings “were perpetrated by al-Qaeda-linked armed terrorist groups which receive financial and logistic support and media and political coverage from regional and foreign countries,” the letter stated, referring to the at least four explosions that occurred in the Syrian capital.

The government called for “firm and clear condemnation of these heinous terrorist crimes by the UN member states and for holding countries which support such acts responsible.” The letter did not directly name non-Syrian actors.

Whomever is behind the blast, said activist Abeer Youssef, is looking to grind life in Damascus to a halt.

"I can't tell whether the regime or the rebels are responsible for this blast," Youssef, who lives nearby and heard the Mazraa explosion, told SAS News. What is clear, she said, is that the bombers "do not want life to go on - they don't want us to go to work or children to go to schools." [Full interview with Abeer Youssef here.]

The Syrian government put the death toll in the Mazraa blast at 53, but Youssef estimated that more than 100 were killed based "on what people at the scene" told her.

Meanwhile, fighting continued in and around Damascus on Friday, with a battle unfolding in Yarmouk camp between the Free Syrian Army and regime forces one day after two Grad missiles hit the area in downtown Damascus. 

“The regime is weak now and their only strength is their political position and the fact that the international community is not interested in removing it,” said an FSA fighter going by the name Abu Tamman. “The fact that there are Iranians and Hezbollah fighters in Syria shows how exhausted the regime is.”

Other mortar attacks were reported by opposition sources in the Barzeh and Jobar districts of Damascus, destroying several homes and killing at least one civilian, the Sham News Network reported. 

“We’ve reached the gates of Midan [in the heart of Damascus], but we’re unable to advance quickly with the quality of arms we have,” Abu Tamman, 28, told SAS News.

Meanwhile, MiG fighters continue airstrikes against East Ghouta, an area east of the capital that is considered the gateway into Damascus. “Members of the shabiha are starting to fan out in north Damascus,” said Reem Dimashqi, 24, a housewife and volunteer activist. “They have made many arrests in the Salhiya, al-Shagour and Roken Adden districts,” she said, an account matched by other opposition reporting. 

“Army checkpoints are everywhere because the regime is now afraid,” Abo al-Ber, 25, formerly a communications engineer and now a fighter with the Free Syrian Army.

 

Additional reporting by Jacob Wirtschafter