2 blasts hit Syria capital, state news agency says

Medics help a wounded man outside a hospital during fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces in Idlib, Syria, March 11, 2012.
AP Photo

(CBS/AP) DAMASCUS, Syria - Two "terrorist explosions'' struck security targets in the Syrian capital Saturday morning, killing a number of civilians and security forces, the country's state news agency said.

The report said preliminary reports indicated they blasts were caused by car bombs that hit the aviation intelligence department and the criminal security department.

The state-run news agency, SANA, posted gruesome photographs of the scene, with mangled and charred corpses, bloodstains on the streets and twisted steel.

CBS News' George Baghdadi reported that residents living in north of the capital said a blast hit the Air intelligence headquarter in the Tahrir square, causing an unspecified number of casualties.

"Thank God, the family is fine but the windows of my house is completely destroyed. The explosion was so terrifying," said a woman living in that neighborhood.

Another blast was heard around 7:40 a.m., Baghdadi reported. A massive black cloud was seen covering west the capital. Residents in that direction also felt their buildings and windows shaking.

One year into the Syrian revolt, the fight to oust President Bashar Assad is transforming into a nascent civil war.

Syria has seen a string of suicide bombings, the last major one on Feb. 10, when twin blasts struck security compounds in the government stronghold city of Aleppo, killing 28 people.

Damascus, another Assad stronghold, has seen three suicide previous bombings since December.

The regime has touted the attacks as proof that it is being targeted by "terrorists.'' The opposition accuses forces loyal to the government of being behind the bombings to tarnish the uprising.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the explosions.

The U.N. estimates that more that 8,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Assad began last March.

In recent weeks, Syrian forces have waged a series of heavy offensives against the main strongholds of the opposition Homs in central Syria, Idlib in the north and Daraa in the south. In the assaults, the regime has seemed to depend on select units and has relied heavily on the minority Alawite sect, to which Assad and the ruling elite belong. That may be out of worries over signs that some Sunni army conscripts have refused to fire on civilians.

Sunnis are the majority in the country of 22 million and make up the backbone of the opposition.