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Suicide attacker strikes near regime targets in Syrian city

By the CNN Wire Staff
May 19, 2012 -- Updated 1610 GMT (0010 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The LCC holds government responsible for bombings
  • Opposition group: At least 29 people killed on Saturday
  • Ban Ki-moon has said he thinks al Qaeda is behind last week's Damascus attack
  • Later, Ban said an investigation is under way into who the "third forces" are

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(CNN) -- A suicide car bombing near security posts in the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor killed at least nine people and wounded several more, state-run media said

The strike occurred near a military security branch, an Air Force intelligence branch, and a military hospital, activists said. The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) said a "suicide terrorist" driving a "booby-trapped car stormed the site of Military Constructions Institution" in the neighborhood of Ghazai Ayash Masaken.

It is the latest in a spate of similar bombings in recent days. It took place just over a week after twin suicide bombings in the capital of Damascus killed at least 55 people, wounded a few hundred more and caused widespread damage.

SANA, quoting a source in Deir Ezzor, said the 1,000 kilograms, or more than 2,200 pounds of explosives, were used in the bombing, which also destroyed and damaged buildings.

The government customarily blames "terrorists" for such bombings.

One Syrian opposition group, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, holds the regime "fully responsible" for the Deir Ezzor blast and other bombings.

The LCC asked how attackers could reach a spot "absolutely secure against external attack." It asked how state media, which published photos of the carnage was able to "immediately enter the area" and how security forces manage to secure the area swiftly.

"Is it a coincidence that the bombings are always in regime-controlled security areas, which only the regime can stage for such displays before the world?" the group said in a statement Saturday.

The LCC said the Free Syrian Army anti-government resistance force denied responsibility.

"Our FSA contacts have indicated that everyone knows that the security and Air Force Intelligence branches are like fortresses, and therefore very difficult to penetrate. It would be impossible to target these areas from the outside," the LCC said.

"What interest do the peaceful resistance movement or the Free Syrian Army have in causing such an explosion, especially at a time that coincides with the arrival of the U.N. observers? Such an act does not serve our interests; it only serves the regime's interests to promote its claims of 'armed gangs,' " the LCC said.

SANA quotes a group called the Syrian Human Rights Network that says the strike "bears the hallmarks of al Qaeda which proves the link between the opposition policies and the goals of this terrorist organization in the region."

Recent bombings have heightened concerns about the possibility of jihadists operating in the country.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking Thursday at the United Nations, blamed al Qaeda for the May 10 Damascus attack.

"Very alarmingly and surprisingly ... there was a huge, serious, massive terrorist attack. I believe that there must be al Qaeda behind it," he said Thursday at the United Nations.

But on Friday, he said, "We are still trying to investigate who are these third forces behind this terrorist attack in Damascus."

One group, called the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, has claimed responsibility for suicide attacks in Syria.

A video purportedly from Al Nusrah Front released Saturday said government buildings in Damascus were recently targeted "because the regime continues to shell residential civilians." But a statement this week from the group said the video "is full of fabrications."

"We never received any confirmation, acknowledgment or denial from our military sector in the front," the group said.

The nine fatalities in Deir Ezzor were among 29 deaths in Syria on Saturday, the LCC said.

Attackers in the Aleppo province city of al-Bab fired rockets at the main branch of President Bashar al-Assad's ruling Baath party Saturday, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. There was no immediate word of casualties.

Map shows area of most recent clashes  Map shows area of most recent clashes
Map shows area of most recent clashesMap shows area of most recent clashes

The Syrian conflict began in March 2011, when the government cracked down on peaceful protesters calling for reforms. The peaceful protest movement grew as the crackdown continued. Eventually, armed opposition forces emerged, including the Free Syrian Army -- made up of defectors.

The daily reports of violence have cast severe doubts on the success of a peace plan brokered by U.N.-Arab League joint special envoy Kofi Annan.

Ban said Friday that the observer team will soon reach its mandated total of 300 monitors and some civilian staffers.

"We hope that this will contribute to realizing the complete cessation of violence by all sides. It is important so that inclusive political dialogue can start for political resolution of this issue," he said.

Ban said 9,000 to 10,000 people have been killed during the crisis. Opposition activists have reported a death toll of more than 11,000.

CNN cannot independently verify reports of deaths and violence because the Syrian government has severely restricted access by international media.

CNN's Kamal Ghattas, Amir Ahmed and Richard Roth contributed to this report.

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