DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Syria accused the United States and Western countries on Saturday of colluding with al Qaeda-linked militants to target the country, in the wake of a string of explosions in Damascus and Aleppo the government has blamed on foreign-backed fighters.
“Western countries and the United States, which made alliances to wage wars using the pretext of fighting terrorism, are now making alliances with the terrorists which Syria has been facing,” Information Minister Adnan Hasan Mahmoud told journalists in Damascus on Saturday.
He said attacks such as a deadly twin car bombing in Damascus on Wednesday which killed 55 people showed that elements linked to the global militant group al Qaeda were targeting Syria.
“This terrorist escalation using booby-trapped cars with tons of explosives to target the Syrian people ... is a continuation of the bloody terrorist tactic used between armed groups and al Qaeda, along with the international Western countries that support them with weapons and money,” he said.
The opposition denies any role in the attacks and has argued that the government is behind the bombings.
Opposition to Assad, which began with peaceful protests in March 2011 inspired by popular revolts against other Arab autocratic leaders, has grown increasingly militarised. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday there was only a narrow window of opportunity to avert full-scale civil war.
Western countries, Turkey and Gulf Arab states have vocally supported the opposition movement and offered money for communications tools and other equipment, but only the Gulf has openly called for foreign powers to arm the rebels.
Many activists and fighters say Gulf countries are quietly channelling money or weapons to the rebels through private donors.
Syrians have seen little respite from their country’s bloody turmoil despite a ceasefire agreement brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan and the presence of a United Nations monitoring mission. The United Nations blames both the government and rebels for breaching the ceasefire.
With the truce deal in tatters, many in the opposition have questioned the viability of Annan’s peace plan. The information minister said the opposition and its supporters were trying to thwart the initiative.
“This is a grave violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions on fighting terrorism and to international envoy Kofi Annan’s plan. It asks for tangible steps forward from armed groups and their supporting countries, who are trying to foil the mission,” the minister said.
The United Nations says more than 9,000 people have been killed in Assad’s crackdown on unrest, while Syria says militants have killed at least 2,600 of its security forces.
Reporting by Marwan Makdessi; Editing by Sophie Hares