News Column

Damascus Bombings Kill 72

Feb. 21, 2013

At least 72 people died and hundreds were wounded Thursday in a series of bombings in the Syrian capital Damascus, opposition activists said.

A car bomb went off near the ruling Baath Party headquarters in central Damascus, killing at least 59 people, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"Most of the dead were civilians, including 16 regime troops," the head of the Britain-based organization, Rami Abdel Rahman, told dpa.

State television said that 53 people, mainly civilians, were killed.

Pro-government TV channel al-Ikhbariya broadcast footage of charred bodies inside cars and body parts strewn across the streets, as firemen battled blazes from dozens of vehicles.

A second car bombing rocked the north-eastern Damascus area of Barzi, targeting a military intelligence building, said activists.

The observatory said at least 13 people, including 10 soldiers, were killed in Barzi.

The watchdog said simultaneous blasts also hit checkpoints manned by pro-government militiamen, known as Shabiha, in the area.

Two mortar rounds, meanwhile, struck the Damascus offices of the army command, said activists.

The main opposition coalition denounced as "terrorists" those who had carried out the bombings.

It said that "any acts targeting civilians or violating human rights are criminal acts that must be condemned, regardless of the perpetrator or the justification."

The attacks coincided with fierce clashes between government troops and rebels around Damascus, said activists.

Eighteen people were killed in an airstrike on a field hospital in the southern province of Daraa, they reported. The dead included eight rebel fighters, three medics and seven civilians.

Daraa is the cradle of the uprising that erupted against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011.

At least 70,000 people have been killed in Syria since the start of the revolt, according to UN estimates.

In Beirut, British Foreign Secretary William Hague urged al-Assad's regime to respond "positively" to a dialogue offer made by the opposition chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, but stressed that al-Assad should leave power.

"There has been a very important offer of negotiation by Khatib of the National Coalition. It is important that that offer is responded to with serious negotiations by the al-Assad regime," Hague told reporters after talks with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman.

"It's time to go ... The people of Syria ... have experienced enough suffering. Such destruction, such loss of life, such a threat to the stability of the whole region should not be endured because one person wishes to stay in power," he said.

Al-Khatib in January offered to negotiate with regime officials who have no "blood on their hands" and named Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa as a possible representative of the regime.

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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