Two explosions shook the Syrian capital Damascus on Thursday killing more than 55 people and wounding 372, state media said, in a district that houses a military intelligence complex involved in President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on a 14-month uprising.
Syrian television blamed "terrorists" for the rush-hour blasts on the southern edge of the city and showed dozens of mangled, burnt and smoldering vehicles at the site of one of the blasts, some containing incinerated human remains. The Syrian Interior
Ministry said, that the deadly blasts were caused by two suicide car bombers.
Thursday's explosions came a day after a bomb exploded near U.N. monitors observing implementation of a U.N. ceasefire plan and less than two weeks after Syrian authorities said a suicide bomber killed at least nine people in Damascus.
Damascus residents said Thursday's explosions happened almost simultaneously in the same area shortly before 8 a.m. (0500 GMT). Video footage sent to media by activists showed two columns of smoke rising into the sky, one of them forming a dark heavy cloud.
State television showed a large crater in the road and at least one lorry had been overturned. Walls of buildings on either side of wide avenue had collapsed.
Shooting could be heard in the background.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least one of the explosions was caused by a car bomb and that the target was intelligence buildings.
The blasts caused limited damage to the facade of the nearby Palestine Branch Military Intelligence complex, one resident told Reuters. The Palestine Branch is one of the most feared among the more than 20 secret police organizations in the country.
On Thursday evening, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said
Damascus blasts show Syria is confronting terrorists who have foreign support. It called on the U.N. Security Council to "take measures against countries, groups and news agencies practicing terrorism".
The Damascus blasts came a day after Ban told the U.N. General Assembly he was worried by the increase in bomb attacks in Syria.
"There is no escaping the reality that we see every day," he said. "Innocent civilians dying, government troops and heavy armor in city streets, growing numbers of arrests and allegations of brutal torture, an alarming upsurge in the use of IEDs and other explosive devices throughout the country."
For his part, International mediator Kofi Annan condemned the deadly twin bomb explosions and called on Syrian forces and opposition fighters to halt the bloodshed in line with an agreed month-old ceasefire.
Annan said in a statement issued in Geneva: "These abhorrent acts are unacceptable and the violence in Syria must stop."
In a phone call with the Syrian President, Lebanese President Michel Sleiman also condemned the acts and said that the bombings will not pave the way to democracy.
that the solution comes down to sitting at the table of dialogue and reason,
adding that the Syrian peoples interest should be placed above all others.
The U.S. embassy in Beirut called described the bombing as "reprehensible and unacceptable" but said it would not change U.S. demands that the Syrian government implement a UN-backed peace plan.
"The United States condemns in the strongest terms the attacks that took place today in Damascus," the U.S. embassy said in statements posted on Twitter.
The U.S. embassy in Damascus was closed earlier this year when tensions between the two countries rose as Washington voiced support for the revolt against Assad's rule.
The United States has criticized Assad for not sticking to a ceasefire deal and peace plan brokered by special envoy Kofi Annan.
International observers say both rebels and the government have violated the agreement as violence continued.
"We continue to call on the Syrian regime to fully and immediately implement the Annan plan," the U.S. embassy in Lebanon said.
France strongly condemned Damascus’
twin blasts, stressing that the Syrian regime is “fully responsible” for
violence ongoing for more than one year in Syria.
Russia also condemned the attacks via Russian Deputy Foreign Minister
Mikhail Bogdanov who held a meeting with the Syrian ambassador to Moscow.
Later on Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on "strongly condemned" the suicide car bombings and called on all sides to cease armed violence and distance themselves from "indiscriminate bombings and other terrorist attacks."
In a similar event, the Syrian Observatory for
Human Rights said that a blast rocked Aleppo Thursday afternoon,