Muslim Brotherhood denies Syria blast claims

The spokesperson for Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, Zuhair Salem, has denied Saturday’s internet claim of responsibility by the group for suicide bombings in Damascus, saying it was on a fake website created by the regime.

Salem, speaking from London, said the claim was “completely fabricated under our name on the internet”.

It was “completely orchestrated by the regime, just as the attacks were”, he added.

Earlier, a website purporting to be that of the Muslim Brotherhood, claimed that four suicide bombers had carried out the Friday bombings, in which 44 died and 166 were hurt, and threatened more attacks.

The claim contradicted assertions by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad that the blasts were the work of al-Qaeda and of the opposition Syrian National Council that the regime carried them out.

“One of our victorious Sunni brigades was able to target the state security building in Kfar Suseh in the heart of the … capital Damascus in a successful operation carried out by four of our kamikazes drawn from the best of our glorious men, leaving many dead and wounded from the ranks of the [al-Assad] gangs,” it said on its official website.

“We as defenders of the Syrian people and the sanctity of this nation send a message to [al-Assad’s] gangs: This is the beginning of the liberation of Damascus and the tip of the iceberg,” the statement added.

“Hence we warn our fellow citizens and advise them not to approach government centres or security branches … because our martyrdom brigades are in a state of maximum readiness to carry out quality operations in Aleppo, Damascus, and the blessed land of Syria in the next 10 days.”

The statement was signed by the “Muslim Brotherhood’s media committee inside Syria”.

The gift from al-Qaeda
The bombings, the first against the powerful security services in central Damascus since an uprising against al-Assad began in March, came a day after the arrival of an advance group of Arab League monitors who are to oversee a deal to end the bloodshed.

After the attacks, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Meqdad said “this is the gift we get from the terrorists and al-Qaeda, but we are going to do all we can to facilitate the Arab League mission”.

The delegates were to hold talks with Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on Saturday.

Muallem has said he expects the observers to vindicate his government’s contention that the unrest is the work of “armed terrorists”, not overwhelmingly peaceful protesters as maintained by the West and human rights watchdogs.

For its part, the Syrian National Council said “the Syrian regime, alone, bears all the direct responsibility for the two terrorist explosions”.

The regime wanted to create the impression “that it faces danger coming from abroad and not a popular revolution demanding freedom and dignity”, it added.

The UN Security Council condemned the attacks but remained deadlocked on a full resolution on the crisis with the Russian and US ambassadors trading personal barbs.

‘Gravely concerned’
While not rejecting Syria’s account of the events, France accused the regime of trying “to mask the reality of the repression, notably by transferring political prisoners to secret jails”.

Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson said the UN leader was “gravely concerned” about the escalation and urged the government to “fully and speedily” implement the Arab League plan.

Arab League assistant secretary general Samir Seif al-Yazal, head of the advance team, said after the bombings that “what has happened is regrettable but the important thing is that everyone stay calm … We are going to press on with our work. We have started today, and tomorrow [Saturday] we will meet Walid Muallem.”

Yazal’s nine-member team is making logistical arrangements for the arrival of the first observers, who will eventually number between 150 and 200.

In Cairo, the Arab League’s Ahmed Ben Helli said the mission will head to Syria on Monday, grouping more than 50 experts in politics, human rights, military issues and crisis management, the official MENA news agency reported.

The mission is part of an Arab plan endorsed by Syria on November 2 that also calls for the withdrawal of the military from towns and residential districts, a halt to violence against civilians and the release of detainees.

Syria says more than 2 000 security force personnel have been killed in attacks by armed rebels since March.

Continued bloodshed
But 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 over the nine-month crackdown which the world body says has killed more than 5 000 people.

There was no let-up in the bloodshed on Friday with human rights activists reporting at least 21 civilians killed across the country, the majority of them by security force fire.

The bodies of four civilians who had been arrested were found Saturday with signs of torture in restive Homs province, activists said, urging the visiting Arab League team to document the cases.

“The corpses of four citizens were found this morning in the streets of the town of Hula and a fifth citizen was found in a critical condition,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement received in Nicosia.

“Security forces and Shabiha [pro-regime militia] groups had arrested them after midnight on Friday-Saturday in the al-Bustan neighbourhood … There were signs of torture on the bodies of the martyrs,” the Observatory said.

The watchdog demanded that the Arab League “immediately head to the town of Hula to document this flagrant violation of human rights which is just the tip of the iceberg of what is going on in Syria”. — AFP

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