By Yasmine S. Hakimian
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
DAMASCUS, Syria – On September 27, a car bomb explosion killed at least 17 people and wounded 14 others. The victims included women and children. The attack is one of the deadliest in Syria in more than a decade.
The intersection where the explosion occurred leads to an important Shiite shrine in the Syrian capital. The al-Sayyida Zeinab shrine is one of Syria’s holiest sites. The shrine is a popular pilgrimage location and attracts tens of thousands of Shiites from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon each year.
Muhammad Abdul-Sattar al-Sayyid, Syria’s Minister of Religious Endowments, is shocked that such an attack occurred so close to Eid al-Fitr, the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan. General Bassam Abdul-Majid, the Syrian Interior Minister, believes the bomb was a terrorist act. A counter-terrorist unit is currently working to find the perpetrators.
According to the Middle East Times, the bombing may be the work of extremist groups or part of a “struggle between security forces.” Although, there are many speculations about who is responsible for the bombing, authorities are heavily investigating Islamist militants. Islamist groups were responsible for similar attacks during the 1980s when authorities fought an uprising by Muslim militants.
Fawaz Najia, an Arab political analyst, links the attack to growing Sunni-Shiite tension in the region. Najia also believes the Sunnis fear Iran’s Shiite infiltration of predominantly Sunni Arab countries. Sunni militants have clashed with pro-Syrian gunmen in the Lebanese city of Tripoli for the past several months. According to Najia, a Syrian study centre reported that Iran was pouring millions of dollars into Syria to convert Sunnis to Shiism.
Syria is currently at a political crossroad. In the last few years, there have been numerous clashes with security forces killing Islamist militants and arresting hundreds more. In addition, there has been recent unrest with Islamist prisoners in Syrian jails.
Despite efforts to talk, tension remains between Syrians and Israelis. The clash involves Syria’s support for groups like the Palestinian Islamist movements, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah.
The UN Security Council has stressed the need to bring the “perpetrators, organizers, financiers, and sponsors of this reprehensible act of terrorism to justice” and has urged all states to actively assist the Syrian authorities.
For more information, please see:
Aljazeera – UN Condemns Deadly Syria Attack – 28 September 2008
Jerusalem Post – Syria Says ‘Terrorists’ Coming From Outside Border – 28 September 2008
Middle East Times – Syria Hunts for Damascus Bombers – 28 September 2008
CNN – Syria: Car Bomb Kills 17 in Damascus – 27 September 2008