Syria Claims to Arrest Suicide Bomber as Unrest Continues
Syrian authorities claimed on Thursday to have arrested a terrorist who was planning to commit a suicide attack in a mosque.
According to the state news agency SANA, the terrorist is Mohammad Houssam al-Sadaki, a members of Al-Qaeda who was planning to blow himself up inside the al-Rifae mosque in Damascus during Friday prayers.
The report said that “Al-Sadaki confessed that there are other persons supposed to explode themselves in a number of Damascus mosques today during Friday prayers.”
Syria often blames the ongoing violence in the country, brought on by the crackdown by President Bashar Assad’s forces on dissidents, on “armed terrorist groups”.
Meanwhile, at least 52 people died in clashes and bombing across Syria on Thursday, AFP reported. Fourteen people were also wounded when a suicide bomber blew up a vehicle near an important Shiite Muslim shrine in the capital Damascus.
Another car bomb in the northwestern city of Idlib killed and wounded a number of soldiers, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP.
Around the country, the Observatory said at least 33 civilians, 13 soldiers and six rebels died in combat between troops and insurgents and as the army shelled a number of rebel-held towns.
Areas in the provinces of Homs, Daraa, Damascus, Aleppo, Deir Ezzor and Idlib were all targeted, the Observatory said.
Meanwhile, AFP reported that UN observers visited the Al-Haffe town in the province of Latakia, a day after Syrian authorities said the area had been “cleansed” of rebel fighters.
On Wednesday, rebels withdrew from the besieged town and nearby villages that had been under intense regime shelling for eight days, the Observatory said.
The UN Supervisory Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) said the observers reported finding the town all but deserted with a strong stench of dead bodies and most state buildings gutted.
“Most government institutions, including the post office, were set on fire from inside,” said a statement quoted by AFP. “Archives were burnt, stores were looted and set on fire, residential homes appeared rummaged and the doors were open.”
The statement added that “a strong stench of dead bodies was in the air and there appeared to be pockets in the town were fighting is still ongoing.”
Earlier on Thursday, Amnesty International described in a new report the horrible conditions in Syria, confirming reports of torture, executions, arson, and other actions by the government or its agents against Syrian citizens.
In what was a common pattern, Amnesty described the process whereby regular Syrian army troops swoop through a town, search for “terrorists” and make some arrests. When the troops leave, though, they are followed by members of a group called the “Shabbiha” - the “ghost squads” made up of members of Alawite Muslim clans loyal to Assad.
Clad in black, and often very physically imposing – the result of taking steroids – the militia groups enter a town looting, raping, pillaging, and often killing.
The Shabbiha were fingered by the UN as the ones who carried out the recent massacre in the town of Houla, in which more than 100 people – including women and children – were murdered.
Assad later rejected the claims that his regime's military forces were responsible for the massacre.