FSA and Damascus trade blame over twin Aleppo bombings

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Syrian security personnel inspect the site of an explosion in Syria's northern city of Aleppo (Photo: CK/SAP)

Published Friday, February 10, 2012

Updated 17.15: The Free Syrian Army (FSA) has denied "any connection or involvement" with two deadly bombings in Syria's second largest city Aleppo.

Reports on the French news channel FRANCE 24 said that Colonel Arif Hamood of the FSA had claimed responsibility for the two huge blasts on Friday morning.

However a message posted on the group's Facebook site denied they had planted the bombs, which killed at least two dozen people.

"The Free Syrian Army denies any connection or involvement with the bombing in Aleppo," the statement said.

The statement made no specific reference to the comments attributed to Hamood by FRANCE 24.

Syrian state television says 28 people died in the explosions with at least 235 wounded, which targeted the Military Security Branch and headquarters of law enforcement forces in the city.

It said the death toll, which included civilians and members of the security forces, was based on preliminary information but gave no further details.

Syria's state media SANA condemned the attacks as the work of "armed terrorist gangs."

Aleppo, home to much of Syria's merchant class, has been largely spared from the unrest that has rocked Syria for nearly a year, leaving more than 6,000 people dead according to rights groups.

Friday's blasts were the biggest since two suicide bombings in the capital Damascus, one of which killed 44 people in December and the second 26 people in January.

The bombings came ahead of planned protests on Friday by the opposition to denounce Russia's support for the Assad regime.

Violence across the country has intensified in recent weeks with government forces shelling rebel held neighborhoods in Homs.

Tanks stormed a neighborhood in the flashpoint city near the Lebanese border on Friday morning as soldiers launched a house-to-house sweep of the area, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"The tanks entered the neighborhood of Inshaat overnight," the Observatory's Rami Abdulrahman said.

Inshaat is next to the protest hub of Baba Amr in Homs, which has been subjected to a bombardment by regime forces since Saturday that has killed several hundred people, activists say.

Abdel Rahman said that the government forces were in the main streets of Inshaat, while tanks were firing on Baba Amr from a bridge positioned between the two neighborhoods.

Reports of fighting in Syria are difficult to verify due to restrictions on media in the country, an increasingly dangerous situation on the ground, and propaganda campaigns by clashing parties. Opposition and government have disputed the number of casualties.

Diplomatic attempts to bring about a mediated end to the crisis have stalled since last Saturday after Russia and China vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution.

Moscow and Beijing claimed the resolution was unbalanced as it did not condemn opposition groups for taking up arms.

Concerns have been raised that Western powers and Gulf Arab states are trying to manipulate the situation in Syria to further their foreign policy aims.

Russia on Friday said Syria's opposition bore full responsibility for the ongoing violence and accused the West of pushing the regime's opponents into armed conflict.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told ITAR-Tass news agency the opposition's refusal to enter direct talks with the Syrian government meant it "bears full responsibility for improving the situation."

He accused the West of being "accomplices in the process of inflaming the crisis."

(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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