2011 Damascus bombings
|2011 Damascus bombings|
|Part of Syrian civil war|
|Date||23 December 2011 (UTC+3)|
|Car bombs, shooting|
|Al-Nusra Front to Protect the Levant|
On 23 December 2011, two seemingly coordinated bombings occurred in the Syrian capital of Damascus. The alleged suicide car bombs exploded outside Syrian military intelligence agency buildings, killing 44 people and injuring 166. According to Syrian state media, most of the dead were civilians. The attacks took place during the Syrian uprising. The Syrian government blamed Islamist militants, while the Syrian opposition accused the government of staging the attacks to justify its crackdown on the uprising. The attacks have been determined to have been carried out by the anti-Assad terrorist organization Al-Nusra Front to Protect the Levant.
|This section requires expansion. (December 2011)|
On the same day as the attacks, an Arab League team of observers arrived in Syria to monitor the government's activities and push towards a solution of the nine-month uprising against the regime. Officials from the visiting team later visited the sites of both explosions. Government officials escorted the team to the scene of the explosions and re-iterated their longtime claims that the uprising is not a popular one but the work of terrorists.
The bombings were in the Kfar Sousa neighbourhood, south-west of Damascus city center. The state-owned news channel, al-Ikhbariya al-Suriya, said the first car bomb exploded outside the offices of an unspecified security agency. When guards at a nearby General Security Directorate compound went to inspect the first blast, the driver of another vehicle rammed the main gates and detonated the bomb it was carrying. According to a Syrian journalist who lives in Kfar Sousa, gunfire was heard immediately following the blasts and windows up to 200 m (670 ft) away were shattered.
Government authorities blamed Islamist groups, with particular emphasis on al-Qaeda. A Foreign Ministry official told reporters that Lebanon had warned Syria that several militants entered the country through the town of Ersal near Baalbek. He also apparently confirmed the blasts were the work of suicide bombers. However, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird dismissed claims that al-Qaeda were responsible.
Syrian opposition leaders accused the government of staging the attacks to justify its crackdown on the uprising. Former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri claimed the bombings were "engineered" by the Syrian regime. The Free Syrian Army (FSA), the main anti-regime paramilitary group, denied responsibility and accused the government of perpetrating the attack to gain sympathy from the Arab League and its observers, who had arrived just before the bombings. Commentators noted that the FSA and other opposition groups in the 2011 uprising had not used suicide attacks before. The Syrian National Council said "the Syrian regime, alone, bears all the direct responsibility for the two terrorist explosions", adding that the regime wanted to create the impression "that it faces danger coming from abroad and not a popular revolution demanding freedom and dignity".
On 24 December, a website claiming to represent the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) posted a statement claiming responsibility for the attacks. However, the MB denied making the statement. Mohammed Tayfour—the Syrian MB's 'Deputy Guide'—told Al Arabiya television that Syrian intelligence created a fake MB website and published a fake statement. He also said that, according to sources close to the Brotherhood, Syrian intelligence was behind the bombings. From 1976 to 1982, the MB had led an insurgency against the Syrian regime. On 28 December 2011 the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, an affiliate of al Qaeda in Iraq that operates throughout the Middle East, denied all involvement in the suicide attack.
More than a year after the bombings it was thought the main perpetrators behind the attack was the Islamist militant group the Al-Nusra Front. According to the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, it is likely that two female suicide bombers from Iraq carried out the attack.
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- Jihadists Are Creeping Into Syria’s Rebel Factions