At least 31 dead in Syria bombings
At least 31 people were killed and 75 injured when four explosions rocked the heart of the Syrian commercial hub of Aleppo today, television stations reported.
Three suicide car bombs and a mortar barrage ripped through a government-controlled district of the city centre housing a military officers' club today. Activists claimed 48 people were killed.
The state news agency Sana said suicide bombers detonated two explosive-laden cars in the main square, Saadallah al-Jabiri, which is lined on its eastern flank by the military club, two hotels and a telecoms office.
The explosions flattened at least one building and were followed by a volley of mortar bombs into the square and attempted suicide bombings by three rebels carrying explosives, it said.
Another bomb blew up a few hundred metres away on the edge of the Old City, where rebels have been battling Dr Assad's forces.
State television showed three dead men disguised as soldiers in army fatigues who it said were shot by security forces before they could detonate explosive-packed belts they were wearing. One appeared to have a trigger device strapped to his wrist.
Another pro-Assad station, al-Ikhbariya TV, broadcast footage of four dead men, including one body being pulled from the rubble of a collapsed building and loaded onto the back of a pickup truck.
The co-ordinated attacks hit just days after rebels launched an offensive against President Bashar al-Assad's forces in Syria's biggest city, leading to heavy fighting and a fire which gutted a large part of its medieval covered market.
The facades of many buildings overlooking the square were ripped off and a deep crater was gouged in the road.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 48 people were killed and said they were mostly from the security forces, while Sana put the death toll at 31.
Today's attacks in Aleppo followed last week's bombing of the military staff headquarters in Damascus - another strike by Dr Assad's outgunned opponents against bulwarks of his power.
In July, rebels killed four of Assad's senior security officials including Assad's brother-in-law, the defence minister and a general in a Damascus bombing which coincided with a rebel offensive in the capital.
Government forces have since pushed rebel fighters back to the outskirts of Damascus. But they have lost control of swathes of northern Syria as well as several border crossings with Turkey and Iraq, and have failed to push the fighters out of Aleppo.