Syrian bomb attacks cause people to rally around Bashar al-Assad’s regime
If you looked carefully, in the folds of a plastic bin bag, you could make out part of a human head, a mass of shredded flesh and innards, and two bare feet.
That was all that was left of the suicide bomber blamed by Syria’s government for committing mass murder in Damascus on Friday when the Guardian reached the scene.
At least 11 people were killed in the attack, which came on another Friday of mass protests across the country. Grisly images of the aftermath of the bombing in a southern suburb of the Syrian capital were broadcast repeatedly on state media, along with claims that al-Qaida was responsible.
The atrocity shifted attention away from Homs, Hama, Idlib, Dera’a and other towns and villages where Syrians demanding the fall of the regime have been gunned down by Bashar al-Assad’s security forces for the past 10 months. But protests continued, including a rare demonstration in Aleppo, the country’s second city, where crowds appeared to be bigger than on previous Fridays, perhaps because of the presence of Arab League monitors.
In Damascus, government officials and state media said the bomber had detonated an explosive belt next to three buses bringing policemen to Midan, in the south of the city, just before weekly anti-regime demonstrations were due to start.
The dead and more than 60 injured were said to be “mostly civilians”, the state news agency Sana reported. The interior minister described the modus operandi and intention to cause mass casualties as having the “fingerprints of al-Qaida”.
The attack triggered furious condemnation from the regime and loud demonstrations of support for Assad, who is under mounting international pressure over the crackdown on the 10-month uprising which is now the bloodiest episode of the Arab spring, with the UN estimating at least 5,000 people have died.
The unknown bomber’s remains were left at the scene for several hours afterwards before being removed for DNA testing. These and other body parts were repeatedly displayed for journalists who were bussed in by the Syrian ministry of information.
The incident came as Arab observers again fanned out across the country to monitor violence and gather testimony about human rights violations. The Arab League is due to discuss the monitoring mission on Sunday amid mounting complaints that it is not being effective and is providing a figleaf for continuing repression.
“This is Syrian blood,” one security official screamed for the cameras as he waved a surgical glove oozing with gore. “This is the crime of the Arab League.”