Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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National and World

November 28, 2012

Syria: Twin car bombs in Damascus kill 34 people

(Continued)

The different tolls could not immediately be reconciled. The regime restricts independent media coverage.

Syria's conflict started 20 months ago as an uprising against Assad, whose family has ruled the country for four decades. It quickly morphed into a civil war, with rebels taking up arms to fight back against a bloody crackdown by the government. According to activists, some 40,000 people have been killed since March 2011.

Assad blames the revolt on a conspiracy to destroy Syria, saying the uprising is being driven by foreign "terrorists" — a term the authorities use for the rebels — and not Syrians seeking change.

Analysts say most of those fighting Assad's regime are ordinary Syrians and soldiers who have defected, disenchanted with the authoritarian government. But increasingly, foreign fighters and those adhering to an extremist Islamist ideology are turning up on the front lines. The rebels try to play down the Islamists' influence for fear of alienating Western support.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday's bombings.

Rebels fighting to topple Assad are predominantly members of the Sunni Muslim majority. In their push to take Damascus, they have frequently targeted state institutions and troops around the country. They have also often hit districts around the capital with the country's minority communities, perceived to be allied with Assad's Alawite sect, an offshoot Shiite group that dominates the regime.

Downtown Damascus — the seat of Assad's power — has also seen scores of car bombs and mortar attacks that have targeted state security institutions and troops, areas with homes of wealthy Syrians, army officers, security officials and other members of the regime.

In May, two suicide car bombers blew themselves up outside a military intelligence building in Damascus, killing at least 55 people. In July, a bomb hit a building in which Cabinet ministers and senior security officials had been meeting, killing the defense minister and his deputy, who is also Assad's brother-in-law. A former defense minister also died in the attack.

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