23/12/2011 05:56 GMT | Updated 23/12/2011 09:11 GMT

Syria: Bomb Attacks In Damascus Blamed On Al Qaeda

Twin explosions have shaken the Syrian capital Damascus, killing several people, state media reported, blaming the attack on suicide car bombs that may be linked to al Qaeda.

Syrian state television said that there had been several civilian casualties but gave no further information on the numbers of dead or injured. Reuters news agency has reported that 40 people have been killed in the blasts.

Opposition activists have voiced scepticism over the attacks, blaming them on the government of president Bashar al-Assad in an attempt to influence an Arab League observer team which arrived in the country on Thursday.

On Friday, the Syrian General Revolution Commission, a representative of the people’s movement in Syria, released a statement casting doubt on those behind the attack. It read:

"The bombings that took place in Damascus today were a familiar pathetic move from the Syrian government and a feeble attempt to plant fear and terror in the hearts of civilians. These bombings were strategically planned during the beginning few days of the International Observers presence onSyrian grounds in effort to damage our peaceful movement against oppression and injustice."

The team is part of the efforts aimed at ending the brutal crackdown on the opposition to the Assad regime, which has killed at least 5,000 people since it began in March, according to the United Nations.

According to Al Jazeera the blasts are the first such attack in the Syrian capital since the start of the uprising.

An Associated Press reporter in Damascus said the blasts went off within a minute of one another in the Kfar Sousa district, where the state security and intelligence buildings are located while witnesses told the BBC that the explosions came for the western Qaboun district of the capital, close to Abbasiyyn Square, and from the Jamarek area of Mezzeh, an eastern district of the capital.

State TV said the attacks were "carried about by suicide bombers driving vehicles packed with explosives" and that "preliminary investigations showed al Qaeda was responsible".

Deputy foregin Minister Faysal Mekdad, standing outside the Intelligence building where bodies still lay, told Associated Press: "We said it from the beginning, this is terrorism. They are killing the army and civilians."

Standing beside Mekdad was the head of the observer advance team Sameer Seif el-Yazal, who commented: "We are here to see the facts on the ground... What we are seeing today is regretful, the important thing is for things to calm down."