Syria: 25 dead in Aleppo car bomb blast
Damascus - Two powerful car bombs targeting security posts ripped through Syria's second city of Aleppo on Friday, killing at least 25 people, state media said, even as tanks surged into battered protest hub Homs.
State television said "armed terrorist groups" carried out the attacks, the first in Aleppo since the outbreak of an uprising against the regime of President Bashar Assad almost a year ago.
It said a "suicide bomber in a car packed with explosives" carried out one of the attacks on a police station, flattening a nearby food distribution centre. The second bombing targeted an intelligence base.
"The number of martyrs who have been transported to hospital in Aleppo have so far reached 25 dead and 175 wounded as a result of the terrorist attacks," the health ministry said, as quoted by state television.
The General Commission of the Syrian Revolution, an opposition group, said that the attacks were "staged by the regime", in a statement e-mailed to AFP in Beirut.
State television showed gruesome images of mangled bodies in pools of blood in the street outside rows of shattered buildings. Emergency workers held up body parts, including hands, feet and a torso. Soldiers were among the casualties.
Its footage was aired live from the site of the blasts, with bulldozers quickly deployed to clear away shattered concrete strewn across a broad avenue, revealing deep craters in the ground.
"A terrorist blew himself up with his car 100m from the entrance of the police station," the report said, adding that emergency services were scouring the rubble for bodies.
Several people who were interviewed denounced Turkey and Qatar for not standing by the regime in Syria as it seeks to put down a revolt that broke out last March.
"Is this the freedom they want?" asked one angry-looking man who was holding up a severed arm. He was referring to those leading the protest movement against Syria's government.
Aleppo, a northern commercial hub, has been largely spared the unrest that has rocked Syria since last March, leaving more than 6 000 people dead according to rights groups.
In central Syria, tanks stormed a district in the flashpoint city of Homs as troops launched a house-to-house sweep of the area to crush the Assad regime's opponents, said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Death in Homs
"The tanks entered the neighbourhood of Inshaat overnight," he said, adding troops were still deploying.
Inshaat is next to the protest hub of Baba Amr in Homs, which has been subjected to a withering assault by regime forces since Saturday that has killed more than 400 people, activists say.
At least four people were killed on Friday in Homs, including two children who died in the shelling of Baba Amr, said the Observatory.
Later, regime forces began shooting at worshippers leaving Al-Rawda mosque in Al-Waer district of Homs, it said.
The security forces deployed heavily outside mosques across Syria, firing on worshippers in some areas to prevent protests denouncing Russia's steadfast support of the Assad regime, activists said.
Internet-based activists had urged Syrians to protest under the banner of "Russia is killing our children".
Russia hit back on Friday, saying the opposition bore full responsibility for the ongoing violence while accusing the West of pushing the regime's opponents into armed conflict.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told ITAR-Tass news agency the opposition's refusal to enter direct talks with Syria's government meant it "bears full responsibility for improving the situation".
He accused the West of being "accomplices in the process of inflaming the crisis".
Moscow, a staunch ally of Assad along with China, has stood in the way of repeated attempts at the United Nations to adopt a resolution condemning the bloodshed in Syria.
US President Barack Obama on Thursday decried the violence as "outrageous bloodshed" and urged "a transition from the current government that has been assaulting its people".
Despite mounting calls for military aid to outgunned and outnumbered rebel troops in Syria, British Foreign Secretary William Hague stressed Britain has no such plans.
Arab League-UN mission
But Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the international community cannot afford to watch the "massacre" taking place in Syria without acting.
"We cannot let Syrian people die every day and the international community will follow blindly," he said.
Germany meanwhile backed a proposed joint Arab League-UN mission to monitor the situation in Syria, but other major powers were more cautious.
Prospects for the mission that the pan-Arab bloc's chief has proposed to UN leader Ban Ki-moon could depend on an Arab League foreign ministers' meeting this weekend and the backing of the major powers.
As the international community struggles to find a new diplomatic response to Assad's assault on protest cities, Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle gave the strongest welcome to the Arab League-UN proposal.
"In addition to the establishment of a contact group of 'friends of a democratic Syria' we must also undertake a new attempt to resolve the crisis through the United Nations," Westerwelle said in Berlin.
Moscow has insisted any solution to end the bloodshed must come from within Syria.