Up to 20 dead, 100 injured in Iranian pilgrim bus blast in central Damascus

Syria insists that the explosion that killed up to 20 people and injured 100 on a bus full of Iranian pilgrims in the heart of Damascus Thursday, Dec. 3, was not an act of terror only a “serious accident” in which a bursting tire killed 3 people. The Iranian news agency, in contrast, described the incident as a terrorist attack which claimed 12 lives.
Pictures spirited out of Damascus show bus had been wrecked and burnt in a manner that could only have been by a large bomb – certainly not a burst tire. Indeed the bus’s tires were the only undamaged part of the vehicle. Witnesses reported dozens of bodies were smashed and flung across an area dozens of meters from the blast. The Syrian minister of interior stood by his “accident” claim although the right rear side of the bus was severely damaged, a chunk of the bus nearly the height of a man was missing, and what was left just below the shattered windows was badly mangled. Exposed parts of the chassis also appeared to be charred by fire. The engine compartment at the rear of the bus was severely damaged.
The victims were Iranian pilgrims on a visit to the Shiite shrine dedicated to Sayeda Zenab in the heart of Damascus, not far from Syrian general intelligence headquarters.
Saeed Jalili, head of Iran’s national security council, who arrived in the Syrian capital at the time of the disaster, cancelled a news conference he was to have held with foreign minister Walid Muallem. It is possible that some of the officials who came with him were on the doomed bus.
No group has taken responsibility for the bombing. According to debkafile‘s Iranian sources, Tehran may well exploit the attack to further inflame its military tensions with the United States and Israel by accusing their intelligence agencies of orchestrating it.
debkafile‘s counter-terror sources estimate that the multi-casualty attack may have been perpetrated by a Sunni fundamentalist offshoot of al Qaeda, several of which operate out of Damascus. The most dangerous is the Fatah al-Islam which has been responsible for previous terrorist attacks in the Syrian capital, including the car-bombing at the same spot as the attack on the Iranian bus on Sept. 27, 2008, The 17 people who died then included a high Syrian intelligence officer.

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