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Syrian officials are vowing to respond with an iron fist to a suicide bombing in Damascus today, 25 people were killed. It was the second deadly bomb attack in the Syrian capital in recent weeks. The government and opposition activists traded accusations as to who was responsible. And the bombing raised fears of escalating violence, as the Arab League presses Syria to implement a peace plan.
NPR's Peter Kenyon is monitoring developments in Syria from Istanbul.
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PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Syrian state television showed footage of the aftermath of the bombing in a central neighborhood of Damascus. Syria's interior minister issued a statement saying it appeared the suicide bomber detonated his device at a busy intersection in hopes of causing maximum damage and loss of life. The attack comes just two weeks after a pair of explosions in Damascus killed some 44 people.
Government officials blame unnamed terrorists possibly with links to al-Qaida. Opposition activists, meanwhile, suggested that the regime itself might have been behind the bombings. Activists say they're anxious to see the anti-regime demonstrations remain peaceful. But with renegade soldiers forming loose units inside Syria, instances of armed resistance to the government crackdowns are on the rise.
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KENYON: As night fell, opposition videos showed large demonstrations in many cities. This one said to be from the southern Daraa province. Opposition estimates of demonstrators killed by security forces today rose into the dozens.
Arab League head, Nabil el-Araby, told reporters that he'd passed a message to the Syrian regime by a Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, who's based in Damascus, calling for an end to the violence.
Meanwhile, the Qatari prime minister, who met with U.N. officials this week, has said the league's observer mission had made mistakes and needs help. The league is due to meet Sunday in Cairo to discuss the mission.
Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul.
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