Who Planted the Bombs in Damascus?

PHOTO: People stand at the site of a suicide bombing in Damascus, Syria, Dec. 23, 2011.PlayMuzaffar Salman/AP Photo
WATCH 2011: Tough Year for Dictators

The conspiracy theories began to swirl even before the dust had settled on twin bombings that rocked Syria's capital Friday, killing more than 40 people, according to Syrian authorities, and wounding more than 100.

The Syrian government was quick to blame what it said were twin suicide car bombs on al Qaeda, and link the attack to rebels seeking to overthrow Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. The blasts, which targeted security and intelligence buildings in an affluent quarter of Damascus, came a day after observers from the Arab League arrived in Syria to monitor the country's compliance with a promise to ease its violent crackdown on protestors. Syrian government authorities took the observers to the scene of the blast soon after it occurred and said it was proof that opponents of the regime were terrorists.

"We said it from the beginning," said deputy foreign minister Faysal Mekdad. "They are killing the army and civilians." He said that Syria had received a warning earlier this week from Lebanon that al Qaeda fighters had crossed the border from Northern Lebanon into Syria.

President Assad has long blamed the unrest on outsiders, Islamists and al Qaeda. He reiterated the claim during an interview with Barbara Walters of ABC News earlier this month.

WATCH the interview with Assad.

But a representative of the opposition suggested that the blasts were "very mysterious." Omar Idilbi of the Syrian National Council, an anti-Assad coalition, noted that the bombings were "in heavily guarded areas that are difficult to be penetrated by a car. The presence of the Arab League advance team of observers pushed the regime to give this story in order to scare the committee from moving around Syria." He said the regime wanted the Arab League and the world to believe that Syria is under attack from terrorists.

While Idlibi did not explicitly accuse the regime of planting the bombs, suspicions were widespread. "We have all sorts of suspicions that this could be organized by the regime itself," said Basma Qadmani, the SNC spokeswoman.

The two explosions went off Friday morning outside the headquarters of the General intelligence Agency and a military intelligence office in the Kfar Sousa district.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner released a statement condemning the bombings "in the strongest terms."

"There is no justification for terrorism of any kind and we condemn these acts whether they occur," said Toner. "It is crucial that today's attack not impede the critical work of the Arab League monitoring mission to document and deter human rights abuses with the goal of protecting civilians."

Prior to the arrival of the Arab League observers, the Assad regime had stepped up its crackdown on protestors, according to Human Rights groups, with 200 people dying in two days. UN estimates say that more than 5,000 people have died since the beginning of the unrest in March.

Reuters and the AP contributed to this report.

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