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6 die in Syria car bombing; gunman slays state journalist

The bomb blast in Damascus injures 10. Syrian President Bashar Assad's government and opposition blame each other for the explosion.

December 22, 2012|By Ned Parker, Los Angeles Times
  • A Syrian opposition fighter takes cover during fighting in Azaz.
A Syrian opposition fighter takes cover during fighting in Azaz. (Virginie Nguyen Hoang /…)

BEIRUT — A car bomb exploded in eastern Damascus on Saturday, an insurgent spokeswoman said, and the Syrian government reported that a gunman killed a state television journalist in the capital.

The car bomb exploded in the capital's Kaboun area and left six people dead and 10 wounded, an opposition spokeswoman in Damascus identified as Lena Shami said by Skype.

There was no way to independently confirm the death toll.

The official Syria Arab News Agency also reported the bombing, blaming terrorists, the government's usual description of rebels seeking to overthrow President Bashar Assad. Shami blamed  the bombing on the government, which she said was targeting the area's Sunni residents. Sunnis make up a majority of the nation's population and also of the rebellion.

Meanwhile, a Syrian state television cameraman was slain outside his home in Damascus, SANA reported.

Haidar Smoudi was the ninth state-employed journalist killed by "armed terrorist groups," the news agency said. There was no claim of responsibility in the shooting, but anti-government groups have been suspected of carrying out attacks on state-employed journalists.

The 21-month-old rebellion has claimed as many as 40,000 lives, according to the opposition. A United Nations panel recently described the conflict as increasingly sectarian and gave details of abuses by both government forces and rebels.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, an activist with the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition group, denounced the killing of Smoudi.

"We condemn completely the targeting of unarmed journalists who are considered pro-regime, just as we condemn the killing of any unarmed civilian, no matter their affiliation," he said.

On the diplomatic front, Russia, seen as one of Syria's chief supporters, indicated yet again that it was distancing itself from Assad. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters late Friday that Moscow would not be opposed to any country offering Assad asylum, the Associated Press reported.

"If there is anyone willing to provide him guarantees, they are welcome," Lavrov told reporters on a plane returning from a Russia-European Union meeting in Brussels. "We would be the first to cross ourselves and say: 'Thank God, the carnage is over!' If it indeed ends the carnage, which is far from certain."

The remarks followed Russian President Vladimir Putin's comments Thursday making it clear that Russia saw Syria's stability, not "the fate of the Assad regime," as its priority.

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