Suicide bombers hit Syria complex
Suicide bombers attacked a security compound on the edge of Syrian capital Damascus overnight, in the latest assault by rebels against units loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, insurgents said.
Al-Nusra, a militant Islamist group, claimed responsibility for the attack on the Air Force Intelligence complex in the suburb of Harasta, saying officials working there had played a major role in the government's crackdown on an 18-month-old revolt.
Residents and opposition activists told Reuters the attack set off huge explosions and was followed by a gun battle. Video footage taken by activists, which could not be independently verified, showed a large explosion.
"The decision was taken to hit Airforce Intelligence because it is one of the most notorious security divisions, and a citadel of repression whose extent is known only to God," said the statement from Al-Nusra, posted on Facebook.
The Airforce Intelligence unit is commanded by Brigadier General Jamil Hassan, one of Dr Assad's top lieutenants, and is mostly made up of members of the president's minority Alawite sect. There was no information on whether Gen Hassan was present during the attack.
Elsewhere, the head of Nato said today the 28-member military alliance had plans in place to defend Turkey against attack from Syria if necessary, but that he hoped the two countries would find a way to stop tensions escalating.
Nato ambassadors threw their support behind Turkey in an emergency meeting last week after Syrian shells struck a border town in Turkey killing five civilians.
The two neighbours have repeatedly exchanged fire since then, the most serious outbreak of cross-border violence since Syria's revolt against Dr Assad erupted 18 months ago.
"We have all necessary plans in place to protect and defend Turkey if necessary," Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters before a meeting of the alliance's defence ministers in Brussels.
On Monday, Turkish president Abdullah Gul said the "worst-case scenarios" were now playing out in Syria and that Turkey would do everything necessary to protect itself.