Blasts in Syrian capital as Assad vows crackdown

Last Updated: Sunday, November 20, 2011 - 15:17

Beirut: Residents in the Syrian capital woke up to two loud explosions on Sunday amid unconfirmed activist reports that a major building belonging to the ruling Baath party had been by hit several rocket-propelled grenades.

There were no immediate details or confirmation of the report. Eyewitnesses said the building appeared intact on Sunday and reported no significant security deployment around it.

Syrian President Bashar Assad vowed, meanwhile, to continue with a security crackdown to crush "militants" who he says are massacring Syrians on daily basis.

"The role of the government is to fight those militants in order to restore stability and to protect civilians," he said in an interview with Britain`s Sunday Times published on Sunday.

"We have to prevent militants from doing what they are doing now, killing civilians doing massacres, in different places in Syria," he added.

Syria`s uprising against Assad has grown more violent and militarised in recent weeks, as frustrated protesters see the limits of peaceful action.

Army dissidents who sided with the protests have also grown bolder, fighting back against regime forces and even assaulting military bases.

The so-called Free Syrian Army group of dissident soldiers this week staged their boldest operation yet, attacking a military intelligence building in a Damascus suburb.

But there was no responsibility claim or confirmation of Sunday`s alleged attack on the ruling Baath Party`s main building in Damascus.

If confirmed, the attack would mark the first significant attack on a government building in relatively quiet central Damascus.

The Local Coordination Committees activist network and several residents reported several explosions in the district of Mazraa in the heart of the Syrian capital.

The LCC said in a statement that the building had been hit at daybreak Sunday by several rocket propelled grenades and that two fire brigades headed toward the area amid heavy security presence. The group said it had no further details.

Residents in the Syrian capital said they heard two loud explosions but could not confirm whether the building had been hit.

"I woke up to the sound of two loud thuds," said a resident of the area who asked that he remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. "We have no idea what they were," he added.

Damascus-based journalist Thabet Salem, who lives about a kilometre away from the Baath party building and heard the explosions, said if the reports are confirmed, it would signal a new phase in the Syrian uprising.

"It would be an escalation that gives a new dimension to the whole situation," he said.

The UN says more than 3,500 people in Syria have been killed in the crackdown since the start of the uprising in mid-March. Assad, in the interview, said over 800 Syrian officers and security forces were killed.

He said he feels "pain and sorrow" for the bloodshed but added the solution was to eliminate the militants he blames for much of the violence. The Assad regime maintains the militants are playing out a foreign agenda to isolate and weaken Syria.

"The conflict will continue and the pressure to subjugate Syria will also continue," Assad said. "However I assure you that Syria will not bow down and that it will continue to resist the pressure being imposed on it," he added.

Bureau Report



First Published: Sunday, November 20, 2011 - 12:45

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