Syrian officials claimed that a pair of al Qaeda suicide bombers detonated cars packed with explosives in the capital of Damascus today. From Al Jazeera:
A Syrian government official says at least 40 people, mostly civilians, have been killed by two suicide car bombs in Damascus ahead of calls by anti-government activists for fresh protests across the country.
At least 100 other people were wounded in Friday’s attack on two security facilities in the Kfar Sousa district, Faisal Mukdad, Syria’s deputy foreign minister, said.
State media reported that initial investigations indicated that an al-Qaeda group may have been responsible for the attack.
“Several soldiers and a large number of civilians were killed in the two attacks carried out by suicide bombers in vehicles packed with explosives against bases of State Security and another branch of the security services,” Syria’s state-run television said.
The station aired footage of damaged buildings and dead bodies being transferred to ambulances.
As Al Jazeera notes, the government has not allowed foreign media agencies to cover the attacks, and is quick to link the attacks, and al Qaeda, to the Syrian opposition.
It is certainly possible that al Qaeda groups that have been supported by the Syrian government have gone off the reservation and decided to strike their benefactors. The Assad regime has hosted al Qaeda in Iraq and other groups. Eastern Syria and the northwestern city of Aleppo are considered safe havens and training grounds for al Qaeda-linked terror groups.
Before leaving Iraq, the US targeted al Qaeda’s network in eastern Syria. In October 2008, a US special operations team struck inside Syrian territory and killed Abu Ghadiyah and his staff. The following year, US forces relentlessly pursued Abu Khalaf, Abu Ghadiyah’s successor, during a series of raids in northwestern Iraq. Abu Khalaf, who based his network out of eastern Syria, was finally killed in Mosul in January 2010. The deaths of Abu Ghadiyah and Abu Khalaf hurt the network, but did not defeat it.