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Syria Suffers Deadliest Attack Since Uprising Began

May 10, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT

JEFFREY BROWN: The twin bombings that tore through Damascus, Syria, today left a long list of victims. State media reported 55 people were killed, and more than 370 wounded. That set off claims and counterclaims about who was to blame.

It was the deadliest attack in Syria since the anti-government uprising began 14 months ago. The Interior Ministry said two suicide car bombs packed with 2,200 pounds of explosives detonated moments apart. When people rushed to help victims of the first blast, the second bomb went off. The apparent target? Syria’s military intelligence headquarters, a heavily guarded compound secured by forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.

The explosions ripped the front off the nine-story building, and left behind a scene of death, mangled vehicles and debris. Nearby homes were damaged as well.

WOMAN (through translator): May God take our revenge, because what has happened to us is unbelievable. It is not a human act. We have nothing to do with this, and our houses are being destroyed.

JEFFREY BROWN: The bombs also gouged out two huge craters at the gate of the intelligence compound. One measured 10-feet deep and 20-feet wide. The government blamed — quote — “terrorists,” a label it often applies to the opposition. And the Foreign Ministry urged the U.N. to take measures against countries, groups and news agencies that are practicing and encouraging terrorism.

The U.N. Security Council condemned the bombings, urging all sides to comply with a cease-fire. U.N. envoy Kofi Annan, who negotiated the shaky cease-fire, called for calm, saying — quote — “The Syrian people have already suffered too much.”

And the head of the U.N. observers mission in Syria, Norwegian

Maj. General Robert Mood, made his own appeal after touring the blast site.

MAJ. GEN. ROBERT MOOD: My very clear message to anyone, to anyone that is engaging in this kind of violence is that it is not going to solve any problems. So we need everyone inside Syria, everyone outside Syria to understand that this is going only to create more suffering for women, children, the Syrian people.

JEFFREY BROWN: Just yesterday, Mood and a convoy of U.N. observers had their own brush with disaster, narrowly missing a roadside bombing, as they traveled south from Damascus to Daraa.

In Washington today, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland deplored the bombings, but suggested the Syrian government is at least partly to blame.

VICTORIA NULAND, State Department spokeswoman: If the Assad regime were doing what it’s supposed to do, which is to lead the way in demonstrating its commitment to the cease-fire, then we think that that would set the tone and we would not be seeing these kinds of violent episodes.

JEFFREY BROWN: Syrian opposition leaders charged again today that the government is behind the bombings, in a bid to put anti-Assad forces in a bad light.