Sunday 24 September 2017

Shadowy group claims Damascus bomb attacks

Two large explosions killed 40 people in Damascus on Thursday, state media said, destroying dozens of cars on a highway and damaging an intelligence complex involved in President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on a 14-month-old uprising. Photo: Reuters
Two large explosions killed 40 people in Damascus on Thursday, state media said, destroying dozens of cars on a highway and damaging an intelligence complex involved in President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on a 14-month-old uprising. Photo: Reuters

BEN HUBBARD in BEIRUT

A VIDEO posted online in the name of a shadowy militant group late on Friday claimed responsibility for twin suicide bombings in the Syrian capital last week which killed 55 people.

In the video, a group calling itself the Al-Nusra Front said the bombing was in response to attacks on residential areas by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

"We fulfilled our promise to respond with strikes and explosions," a distorted voice said, reading black text that rolled across a white screen.

The Al-Nusra Front has claimed past attacks through statements posted on militant websites. Little is known about the group, although Western intelligence officials said that it could be a front for an al-Qaeda branch operating in Iraq.

The video's authenticity could not be independently verified.

Western officials said there is little doubt that Islamist extremists, some associated with al-Qaeda, have made inroads in Syria as instability has spread since the start of the uprising against Mr Assad 14 months ago.

But much remains unclear about their numbers, influence and activities inside Syria.

Their presence adds a wild card element to the Syria conflict that could further hamper international efforts to end it.

World powers are backing a peace plan presented by international envoy Kofi Annan that calls for a cease-fire to allow for talks.

But while foreign diplomats can pressure the government and the opposition to stick to the plan, they have no means of influencing shadowy Islamic militants.

Sunday Independent

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