By Bassem Mroue ,AP
BEIRUT — Two explosions struck security compounds in the Syrian city of Aleppo on Friday, killing 25 people and wounding 175, state media reported, in a major city that has largely stood by President Bashar Assad in the nearly 11-month-old uprising against his rule. The blasts come as escalating violence between regime forces and an increasingly militarized opposition has raised fears the conflict is spiraling toward civil war. A Syrian offensive aimed at crushing rebels in the battered city of Homs continued Friday, with soldiers who have been bombarding the city for the past six days making their first ground move to seize one of the most restive neighborhoods. State TV blamed “terrorists” for the blasts in Aleppo — the first significant violence in Syria’s largest city — saying they were proof the government is facing a violent enemy. Anti-Assad activists accused the regime of setting off Friday’s blasts to discredit the opposition and avert protests that had been planned in the northern city on Friday. Along with the capital Damascus, Aleppo is Syria’s economic center, home to the business community and prosperous merchant classes whose continued backing for Assad has been crucial in bolstering his regime.
Three earlier bombings in Damascus in December and January that killed dozens prompted similar exchanges of accusations. Nobody has claimed responsibility for any of the attacks. Outside one of the compounds hit, the Military Intelligence Directorate, a weeping correspondent on state-run TV showed graphic footage of at least five corpses, collected in sacks and under blankets by the side of the road. Debris filled the street and residential buildings appeared to have their windows shattered. But the location did not appear to be closed off, as local residents milled around the site, with few uniformed police around.
The second blast went off outside the headquarters of a police force in another part of the city. State television cited the Health Ministry as saying 25 people were killed in the two blasts and 175 were wounded. Mohammed Abu-Nasr, an Aleppo-based activist, blamed Assad’s regime for the explosions, insisting the opposition would not carry out bombings in residential areas.