25 Dec 2011

Funerals of Syrian bomb attacks held

2:10 pm on 25 December 2011

Thousands of people have attended the funerals of 44 victims of suicide bomb attacks Syria's capital, Damascus.

In a strong show of support for President Bashar al-Assad, mourners flew flags of the ruling Baath party and held portraits of Mr Assad, the BBC reports.

Syrian television carried live pictures of the victims' coffins, six marked "unknown", as they were lined up inside the Umayyad Mosque, one of Islam's holiest sites.

Mourners chanted "Death to America" and "We sacrifice our souls and blood for you, Bashar" during the processions.

The bombings, on Friday, targeted two security service bases in the Kafr Sousa area of Damascus. No-one has claimed responsbility.

Syria blamed the attacks on al-Qaeda, but the opposition said they were staged by the government to justify its crackdown on anti-Assad protesters.

The Syrian National Council said the Syrian regime, alone, bears the direct responsibility for the two terrorist explosions as it wanted to give the impression it faces danger from abroad and not a popular revolution.

The Muslim Brotherhood, part of the council, said the government had set up a fake website purporting to represent the Brotherhood and claiming responsibility for the bombings.

Religious Affairs Minister Abdel Sattar al-Sayyed read a statement he said was from Christian and Muslim leaders.

"We call upon the Syrian people to be aware that Syria is being targeted, and affirm that we stand with them in the face of this plot. We reject any sort of extremism," the statement said.

The attacks came a day after an Arab League mission began in Syria.

The mission is tasked with monitoring whether the government complies with a peace agreement that orders all troops to withdraw from the streets, with the aim of ending the violence.