Twin blasts rock Syrian capital Damascus
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Twin attacks in the Syrian capital Damascus have killed more than 30 people and wounded some 100 more. Suicide bombers hit two security service bases in the city in the first attacks of their kind in a quarter of a century.
The bombings in the heart of the capital came as an advance team was preparing the logistics for an Arab League observer mission to oversee a plan to end nine months of unrest that have killed more than 5,000 people,
"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," said state television.
"Initial inquiries hold Al-Qaeda responsibility," the television added.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has said he expects the Arab observers to vindicate his government's contention that the unrest is the work of "armed terrorists," not overwhelmingly peaceful protesters as maintained by Western governments and human rights watchdogs.
The bombings were the first of their kind since the 1980s when then president Hafez al-Assad, father of incumbent Bashar al-Assad, fought an armed uprising by the since banned Muslim Brotherhood.
The attacks overshadowed nationwide protests called by pro-democracy activists for
after midday prayers to protest against the Arab observer mission which they fear will stall tougher action against the government over its bloody crackdown on protests.
Opposition leaders have charged that Syria's agreement to the mission after weeks of prevarication was a mere "ploy" to head off a threat by the Arab League to go to the UN Security Council.
"We call on the Arab League to refer the matter of the crisis in Syria to the UN Security Council," said Omar Edelbi, spokesman for the Local Coordination Committees, which have been driving the protests on the ground.
The observer mission is part of an Arab plan endorsed by Syria on 2 November that also calls for the withdrawal of the military from towns and residential districts, a halt to the violence and the release of detainees.
The mission's leader, veteran Sudanese military intelligence officer General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, said its numbers would swell to a total of between 150 and 200 in the following days.
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