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'Al Qaeda attacks' in Damascus kill dozens, says Syria's state media

At least 40 people were killed in the Syrian capital Damascus on Friday, in two suicide bombings that state-run media blamed on terrorists with links to Al Qaeda.

damascus suicide bomb al-qaeda attacks 12 23 2011Enlarge
An image published by state news agency SANA shows one of the two cars reportedly packed with explosives and set off outside government buildings in Damascus, Dec. 23, 2011. (SANA/Screengrab)

Two suicide bombings in Damascus are reported to have killed at least 40 people Friday. According to Syria's state media, Al Qaeda terrorists were to blame.

Twin car bombs were set off outside two buildings used by security and intelligence services, SANA news agency reported, both said to be in the capital's south-west Kfar Sousa district.

More than 40 people were killed and over 100 injured, an unnamed military official told the Associated Press.

More from GlobalPost: Syria says 2,000 security forces killed

Some military personnel were killed, but the majority of victims were civilians, SANA said. Its report was accompanied by graphic photos of corpses and body parts.

"Preliminary investigations indicated that that the criminal attack carries the blueprints of Al Qaeda," the agency reported.

However, the government's opponents said the state had staged the attacks for the benefit of an Arab League observer mission that just arrived in Syria, according to the BBC.

More from GlobalPost: Syrian troops kill more than 200 people in two-day violence

Activists have called for nationwide protests against the mission to take place after Friday prayers, under the slogan "Protocol of death, a license to kill," Al Jazeera reported. The organizers accuse President Bashar al-Assad's government of trying to stop the League involving the UN Security Council by agreeing to allow in monitors while continuing to crack down on protesters.

When the Syrian Foreign Ministry agreed to the observer mission, it expressed confidence that the team would find evidence to support the government's claims that armed terrorist gangs—not state security forces—were responsible for much of the violence.

Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad visited the scene of Friday's bombings, the AP reported, where he repeated the official version of events:

"We said it from the beginning, this is terrorism. They are killing the army and civilians."

Accompanying Mekdad, the head of the Arab League's advance observer team, Sameer Seif al-Yazal, stressed that he and his colleagues were in Syria to "see the facts on the ground."

More from GlobalPost: Syria agrees to let Arab League observers oversee peace deal

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/111223/al-qaeda-attacks-damascus-kill-dozens-says-syria