Damascus Suicide Bombings Could Indicate New Insurgent Strategy

Mar 15, 2017
Originally published on March 16, 2017 7:38 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In the Syrian capital of Damascus, more than a hundred people have been killed in suicide attacks and explosions over the past few days. The attacks come as Syria reaches a grim anniversary. It's been six years since the beginning of the civil war there. NPR's Alison Meuse reports the attacks could signal a push by a powerful jihadist coalition to reshape the direction of the conflict.

ALISON MEUSE, BYLINE: Over the past week, normally secure areas of Damascus have been hit by a series of deadly explosions. Yesterday, a suicide bomber entered the gate of Syria's main courthouse, killing at least 25 people. State TV said the bomber was wearing a military uniform and handed his gun over before rushing into the lobby and blowing himself up in the crowd. About an hour later, a suicide bomber attacked a restaurant, which opposition activists say is popular with security officials. Syria analyst Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi says that with rebel groups losing ground to the government, these attacks are an attempt by hard-line jihadists to become the vanguard of a new insurgency.

AYMENN JAWAD AL-TAMIMI: The perpetrator is maybe intensifying these kinds of large-scale attacks as a way to show themselves as a serious force fighting the regime and that there are perhaps potential ways to make an impact rather than submitting to the political process (inaudible), you know, subordinating the interest of the revolution, so to speak.

MEUSE: No group has yet taken responsibility for the bombings, but they follow a Saturday attack claimed by an al-Qaida-linked group that killed 74 people at a Shiite pilgrimage site in Damascus. The group claimed the bombings were on behalf of the revolution. Analyst Tamimi says the group is...

TAMIMI: Using the language of revolution and not compromising on the goals of the revolution as a means to make itself the face of the insurgency.

MEUSE: Tamimi says that with the rebellion losing in Syria's major cities, rebels may be choosing between making concessions to the regime they opposed or these kind of attacks.

Alison Meuse, NPR News, Beirut.

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