Thousands at Syria bomb funerals
Thousands of mourners carrying Syrian flags and pictures of the dead have taken part in a mass funeral for 44 people killed in twin suicide bombings that targeted intelligence agency compounds in Damascus.
Mourners carried coffins draped in the red, white and black Syrian flags into the eighth-century Omayyad Mosque, where they were placed on the ground for prayers.
"Martyr after martyr, we want nobody but (Bashar) Assad," they shouted in support of the embattled Syrian president.
The government linked the bombings to the uprising against Assad's autocratic rule and blamed the al Qaida terrorist network.
They were the first suicide bombings since the unrest began in mid-March, adding new and ominous dimensions to a conflict that has already brought the country to the brink of civil war.
Striking just moments apart, the attackers used powerful car bombs to target the heavily guarded compounds. The explosions shook the capital, which has been relatively untouched by the uprising, and left mutilated and torn bodies amid rubble, twisted debris and burned cars.
The opposition, however, has questioned the government's account and hinted the regime itself could have been behind the attacks, noting it came a day after the arrival of an advance team of Arab League observers investigating Assad's bloody crackdown on the popular revolt.
The government has long contended that the turmoil in Syria this year is not an uprising by reform-seekers but the work of terrorists and foreign-backed armed gangs.
Women dressed in black wailed during the funeral procession, which was aired by state-run Syrian TV. Some blamed the emir of Qatar, seen by supporters of Assad as leading the campaign against the regime.
"Those terrorists are funded by the emir of Qatar to kill innocent people, but they won't succeed," cried Fawakeh Shaqiri, 56, who was dressed in black and carrying a Syrian flag.