Thousands of mourners took part in a mass funeral for 45 people killed in twin intelligence agency compound bombings in Syria’ capital city of Damascus on Saturday. The attacks involved suicide bombers, the first such attack since opposition to President Bashar Assad’s rule arose in March.
An additional estimated 166 people were wounded in the attacks. One took place in Damascus’ upscale Kfar Sousa district at 10:30 on Friday morning, when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden car outside a military intelligence building. The second attack took place a minute later at the gate of the General Intelligence Agency.
Relatives and friends of the deceased, loyalists of Assad’s regime, wore black garments and carried Syrian flags and pictures of the dead, chanting “Martyr after martyr we want no one but Assad,” according to a report by the Associated Press. Coffins were draped with Syrian flags at the Omayyad Mosque, built in the year 715, the burial place of Crusader nemesis and former ruler of Jerusalem, Saladin.
All but six of the remains were identified. Most of the victims were civilians, though some were security officers. State television broadcast the funeral live on-air.
Assad’s administration responded to the attacks by saying preliminary investigations point to al-Qaida, further suggesting that the current battle with opposition forces was not a battle with reformers, but rather with al-Qaida terrorists.
For its part, opposition members said Assad himself could be behind the attack, which took place the day after a team of Arab League observers arrived in country to investigate Assad’s crackdown on resistance. Anti-Assad forces also expressed concern that the recent attack would lead to a massive onslaught in central Syria. Furthermore, reports from rebels indicate that Assad is inhibiting the work of the observers and causing delays for the team.
On Saturday, at least three people were killed in Baba Amr by shelling, with homes and stores set on fire. Another four bodies were found dumped on the streets of Houla in the volatile Homs province, with indications they had been tortured.