Damascus hit by deadly explosions
Two explosions have hit the Syrian capital of Damascus, leaving scores killed and wounded, Syrian TV has reported.
The state-run station blamed terrorists for the blasts, which were in the Qazaz area, where a Syrian intelligence agency has its headquarters. The explosions occurred at about 7.50am local time on Thursday during the rush hour, according to the state news agency Sana.
Fifty-five people were killed and 372 wounded in the attacks, according to the , who appealed for people to donate blood. Describing it as possibly the "strongest and bloodiest" attack so far, he said two suicide bombers blew up cars containing more than 1,000kg of explosives. .
Videos posted online , in the south-west of the city. Syrian TV showed graphic pictures of burnt corpses and body parts on the ground, as well as gutted vehicles. People worked to free bodies from the wreckage of vehicles and to extinguish blazes.
The UN-Arab League mediator Kofi Annan called for a halt to the violence, and urged compliance from both sides with the 12 April ceasefire that he brokered.
"These abhorrent acts are unacceptable and the violence in must stop," he said.
"Any action that serves to escalate tensions and raise the level of violence can only be counter-productive to the interests of all parties."
A source in Damascus told the Guardian that both of the explosions occurred close to the university's faculty of mechanical engineering where students were arriving for lessons.
"They were very large explosions," he said. "They could be heard from far away. People couldn't believe that this happened ... There are ambulances rushing to the area."
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the target was the intelligence buildings.
The outer wall of the nearby Palestine Branch Military Intelligence complex collapsed, although the structure inside appeared intact.
The Palestine Branch is one of the most feared among the more than 20 secret police organisations in the country.
UN observers, including mission head Major-General Robert Mood, visited the site of the explosions, one of which left a 10m-deep crater in the road.
Mood said: "This is yet another example of the suffering brought upon the people of Syria from acts of violence ... I call on everyone within and outside Syria to help stop this violence." Walls of buildings on either side of the wide avenue had collapsed.
State TV showed a man walking around the wreckage pointing at the charred remains of cars. "Is this freedom?" he said.
"This is the work of the Saudis," he added, referring to the Gulf state that has advocated arming the rebels.
As with previous explosions labelled "terrorist attacks" by state media, many opposition activists blamed Thursday's blast on the government, claiming it was trying to equate the armed opposition with violent extremists.
she had no "conclusive evidence" the government was to blame but claimed that a witness to the attack was shot by a government sniper.
She added: "Some people say the security forces were there in order to stage the whole operation and in order to stop people seeing it and recording whatever might happen ... The regime is trying to pull the area into a pool of violence."
The opposition Syrian National Council also blamed the government, while the renegade Free Syrian Army said it lacked the capability to carry out such an attack.
One resident, who said he got within 100m of one of the blasts before being turned back by security forces, told Reuters he saw broken glass on the street and women crying. Nearby schools sent children home for the day.
Another resident said police had closed off the Kfar Souseh district, which houses a military intelligence complex, and were firing automatic rifles in the air. Residents described a smaller blast followed quickly by a massive explosion.
Central Damascus is under the control of forces loyal to but has been struck by several bomb attacks, often targeting security installations or convoys. The last major explosion in the capital occurred on 27 April when a suicide bomber detonated an explosives belt near members of the security forces, killing at least nine people and wounding 26 others.
The UN said weeks ago that more than 9,000 people had been killed since the uprising began in March 2011. Hundreds more have died since, according to opposition activists. since the start of the ceasefire in mid-March. The Local Co-ordination Committees activist group claims .
On Wednesday, the UN secretary-general, .
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