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Monday, September 29, 2008

Syria's intelligence community again hit by
major car bomb

NICOSIA — Syria has been rocked by the latest in a series of major car bombing targeting terrorist leaders and security officials.

A truck filled with explosives was detonated near Syrian intelligence headquarters in Damascus. The bombing took place on Sept. 27 outside the parking lot of the Palestine branch of Syrian intelligence and near a Shi'ite shrine.

The last major car bombing in Damascus was reported in February 2008. Hizbullah operational chief Imad Mughniyeh was killed outside Syrian military intelligence headquarters in a car bombing attributed to Israel.

Over the last two months, the Assad regime has been rocked by several assassinations. In August, Assad's military adviser, Gen. Mohammed Suleiman, was shot dead in the Syrian port of Tartous. In September, a leading Hamas aide, Hisham Al Labadani, was said to have been killed by an assassination squad in Homs.

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"Two theories are developing on little evidence so far," Josh Landis, a leading American analyst on Syria, said. "One is that the bombers were targeting a state security center. The other theory is that they were targeting Shi'ites. So far we don't know what the truth is."

The Syrian government reported that 17 people were killed and 14 others were injured in the rush-hour bombing in southern Damascus. Syrian state television said the pickup truck was filled with 200 kilograms of explosives.

"This was an act of terrorism," Syrian Interior Minister Bassam Abdul Majid said. "We cannot accuse any party. There are ongoing investigations that will lead us to those who carried it out."

Syrian intelligence's Palestine Branch has been commanded by Gen. Suleiman Dayoub. Dayoub was identified as close to former military intelligence chief Gen. Assaf Chawkat, the brother-in-law of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Military intelligence was said to operate two facilities for the assembly of car bombs. Syrian opposition sources said many of the car bombs produced by military intelligence were later employed in attacks against pro-Western politicians in Lebanon.

The Washington-based Reform Party of Syria said the casualties from the latest car bombing consisted mostly of Syrian intelligence agents. RPS suggested that the explosion appeared to have been engineered by elements within the Assad regime rather than Al Qaida.

"The target in question is a low-level, low-security target for any attempt by terrorists to take action against," RPS said. "Many more important and less guarded targets exist inside Syria that would have made a larger impact, if attacked, than a garage depot for a security apparatus."

"These incidents happen everywhere and do not mean a security breach," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al Moualem said. "Be assured that security in Syria will remain alert for the safety of its civilians and territory."

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