Dubai: Thousands of mourners took part in a mass funeral on Saturday, a day after twin suicide car bombings ripped through an upscale Damascus district, targeting heavily-guarded intelligence buildings and killing more than 44 people.
Syria's Muslim Brotherhood on Saturday claimed responsibility for the bombings, but Syria's opposition is accusing the regime of President Bashar Al Assad of staging the bombings. Some blamed the emir of Qatar, seen by supporters of Al Assad as leading the campaign against the regime.
Women dressed in black wailed during the funeral procession, which was aired by state-run Syrian TV. All the coffins on Saturday held the names of the bombing victims, except for six coffins carrying the remains of people who had not been identified.
Arab League monitors were to meet Syria's top diplomat on Saturday. They arrived in the country on Friday to monitor the Al Assad regime's promise to end its crackdown on protesters.
Government officials took the observers to the scene of the explosions and said the attack vindicated their claim that the civil unrest is not a popular uprising, but the work of "terrorists".
The team of Arab League observers are tasked with overseeing an end to the bloodshed, and will hold talks with Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.
The Syrian opposition, however, said that the blasts were part of a plan hatched three days ago by Al Assad's regime to coincide with the League mission.
"The message to the mission is clear, even the state security complex is unsafe for inspection," Bassam Jaara, spokesman for the Syrian revolution in Europe told Gulf News.
Reacting to the attacks, France accused Al Assad's regime of trying to hide its own brutal tactics from foreign observers.
"We still don't have any details on the origin of these attacks," foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said, when asked whether Paris shares suspicions that Al Assad's regime might have staged the bombings. "Bashar Al Assad is wrong if he thinks he can once again trick the international community by play acting, lies and procrastination," he said.
The blasts were the first such suicide bombings in Syria since the uprising began in March. The US strongly condemned the blasts, saying they should not be allowed to impede the League plan.
"There is no justification for terrorism of any kind and we condemn these acts wherever they occur," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.
The head of the Arab League team Sameer Saif Al Yazal said: "We are here to see the facts on the ground ... What we are seeing today is regretful, the important thing is for things to calm down."
With input from agencies