Bombings Rock Aleppo
Violence continues unchecked in Syria
Syrian state television has reported deadly bomb attacks in the city of Aleppo, claiming that the blasts have killed at least 25 people and injured 175 more. Two car bombs reportedly exploded at a police station and a compound used by the Syrian military intelligence service.
Witnesses in the city reported a large explosion, apparently big enough to be heard two miles away and inflict damage to nearby housing following the attack on the intelligence service site, apparently located close to the Damascus-Aleppo highway. An unconfirmed report claims that at least one of the attacks was carried out by a suicide bomber, while the Syrian Observatory on Human Rights claimed a third explosion had been heard by residents.
Previous bombings in Damascus in December and January killed 70 people. At that time the government claimed that Al-Qaeda linked militants were responsible. Several Syrian dissidents took to Twitter to denounce the regime, arguing that it had carried out the latest and previous attacks itself in an attempt to smear its opponents as terrorists. A spokesman for the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC), quoted in the New York Times, also claimed that the Syrian government was responsible, arguing that the tight security at the police and intelligence-run sites would have prevented attackers from getting close.
So far, the northern city of Aleppo (Syria’s second largest city) has remained largely quiet and has not been the site of significant anti-government protests.
If the bombings were carried out by a group or organization linked to the opposition SNC, it may signal that the opposition is attempting to widen the struggle and put more pressure on Assad’s government, and demonstrate that it is losing control of larger and larger areas of the country.
On the other hand, suicide car bombings are a favored tactic of Islamist radicals. Aside from the flood of refugees, another tragic legacy of the struggle in neighboring Iraq may be the existence of a body of trained militant extremists with the know-how, experience and resources to undertake a similar campaign of urban guerilla warfare in Syria.
Until the dust settles, and perhaps not even then, the identity of those responsible for this string of attacks will remain obscure. But if it does indeed represent the emergence of a dangerous new faction in the struggle for Syria, then it is unlikely that this will be its last attack.