By Ahmed Kwider and Nuha Shabaan
April 30, 2013
AMMAN: Less than 24 hours after a similar explosion, a car bomb rocked central Damascus Tuesday with Syria’s government and rebel supporters again trading accusations of culpability.
State news agency SANA reported 13 dead and more than 70 injured in the explosion, just steps away from the old Interior Ministry building in the capital’s Marjah district and up the road from the Four Seasons Hotel.
Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar toured the site of Tuesday’s blast and told SANA that the bombing was “a reaction to the achievements of the Syrian Arab Army against the terrorists.”
While al-Shaar insisted that “Israel is the primary beneficiary of such terrorist acts,” opposition media and rebels see a scheme by the Assad government to change the international conversation about Syria and prevent a UN investigation into the use of nonconventional weapons.
“We heard the noise of explosion and saw plumes of smoke rising,” said independent opposition activist Reem a-Dimashqi, who asked that her real name be withheld for security reasons.
“There was an activist there and he told me that he saw state-television cameramen near the site five minutes before the explosion,” she said.
An eyewitness who was on a bus 150 meters away from the blast, said that shabiha invaded the road about 10 minutes before and began firing randomly and screaming at cars to pull over. “They were 50 meters away from us when one of them… started shooting in the air,” she said. “Within five minutes, I heard a sound that I hope no one ever hears in their lives.” The force of the blast shook the entire bus, shattering the windows of the cars and buildings around it, she added.
According to the independent citizen-journalist agency Shahed News, most of the injured from Tuesday’s blast were moved to Mojtahid Hospital, but the deployment of regime troops delayed their treatment, with witnesses describing blood-stained emergency vehicles.
“Even when ambulances came, they did not open the road,” an eyewitness told Shahed by telephone.
Another citizen reporter told Shahed that regular patients were barred from entering the hospital because of the volume of injured people from the explosion.
“The regime has an interest in confusing the international community, to avoid sending an investigation committee about the use of chemical weapons,” said Musaab Abo Katada, a spokesman for the FSA’s Military Council in Damascus. “They want to say that it won’t be safe for them to come.”
“The regime is sending a message to the international community that Syria is not safe anymore and the search teams will not be safe,” said Mohammed al-Ashmar, the head of Capital Beat, a Damascus-based civil society organization that send out news bulletins of events in and around the capital.
“Given the crimes the regime commits every day, pulling off an explosion like this is not a big deal,” al-Ashmar says. Why would the government portray itself as weak and unable to safeguard its capital? Regime officials believe “it will make the world feel sympathy that this regime is facing the cruelty of Al-Qaeda.”
The bomb went off close to the Four Seasons Hotel, which is frequented by diplomats and other international visitors. The zone around it is a secure area by the authorities, with government checkpoints and strict searches for civilians entering the zone.
“That is why the regime is the only force capable of conducting bombings in this area,” concluded Abo Katada.