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Car Bombs Rip Through Syria's Second City
March 19, 2012

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A car bomb in Syria's second-largest city, Aleppo, killed two people near secret police headquarters and wounded 30 others, putting the country further on edge. It was the third car bomb in two days and overshadowed a return visit by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. In a significant shift, Russia, which has backed Syria staunchly in U.N. Security Council deliberations on sanctions resolutions, indicated that it supported Annan's efforts.

Two car bombs in Aleppo the day before killed 27 people and injured 140 others. A month earlier, a similar attack killed 28.

Annan was again in the country, this time to resurrect an Arab League monitoring mission, which was abandoned several weeks ago after it appeared to have no effect on the ongoing violence.

Aleppo and Damascus, the capital and largest city, have large numbers of people who are supportive of President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian opposition did not claim responsibility for any of the bomb attacks. Assad has for many months decried attacks from terrorist agencies. The Syrian National Council, head of the opposition to Assad's government, asserted that the government had staged the bombings.

A peace protest in Damascus was cut short and 11 of the marchers were detained when they started chanting slogans that attending security forces didn't like. Later in the day, a gun and rocket battle punctuated the stillness in the al-Mezze district.

Meanwhile, all six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council have announced plans to close their Syrian embassies. Representatives of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates made the announcement, joining the ranks of those rejecting representation in Syria. Other countries that have made similar actions include France, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The aid to the injured has not stopped, however. Many nations, most prominently the United States, contribute to send large amounts of money, food, water, and first aid supplies to the U.N. relief effort under way in Syria. Despite competing politics on other issues, Iran and the U.S. see eye-to-eye on this issue, with planeloads of aid arriving in Damascus from Tehran regularly. In addition to contributions from the International Red Cross, donations of time and money were pouring in from the Red Crescent Societies of the Middle East. 

U.N. observers estimate that the death toll in the yearlong uprising against Assad's government has topped 9,000 and that the number of Syrians fleeing to neighboring countries is more than 30,000.


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