By MALCOLM FOSTER, Associated Press
TOKYO -- The head of Syria's main opposition group said Friday the twin suicide car bombings that killed 55 people in Damascus appeared to be the work of al-Qaida forces he said were linked to the regime of President Bashar Assad.
Paris-based Burhan Ghalioun, chief of the opposition Syrian National Council, said the cease-fire brokered by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan was "in crisis" because it lacks teeth.
Speaking at a news conference in Tokyo, Ghalioun said there would be "no peaceful solution" to the violence in Syria "unless a threat of force against those who don't implement the plan."
In Damascus, workers were paving over two massive craters caused by the bombs that struck a Syrian military compound Thursday. The attack, which also wounded more than 370 people, was the deadliest against a regime target since the Syrian uprising began 14 months ago.
Security forces armed with Kalashnikov rifles were guarding the compound Friday.
The bombings fueled fears of a rising Islamic militant element among the forces seeking to oust Assad and dealt a further blow to international efforts to end the bloodshed. Assad's government blamed the blasts on armed terrorists it says are driving the uprising.
But Ghalioun said he didn't think "these radical forces ... are isolated from the regime."
"The relationship between the Syrian regime and Al Qaida is very strong," he said, adding that the Syrian government had cooperated with al-Qaida against U.S. forces in Iraq, as well as in its movements in Lebanon.
The United States condemned the bombings and expressed concern that al-Qaida may be increasingly taking advantage of Syria's prolonged instability. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters that U.S. intelligence indicates "an al-Qaida presence in Syria," but said the extent of its activity was unclear.
Ghalioun is visiting Tokyo at the government's invitation and is appealing for diplomatic support and humanitarian aid. He said the Annan cease-fire plan will die if Assad's goverment continues to challenge it and "continues using terrorist bombings."
"Assad feels that he can run away from implementing all of his obligations without any consequences," he said.
Associated Press Writer Bassem Mroue contributed to this report from Damascus.
<em>Syrian mourners attend the mass funeral of 44 people killed in twin suicide bombings which targeted intelligence agency compounds at the Omayyad Mosque in Damascus on December 24, 2011 (LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Dec. 23, 2011 - Two car bombers blow themselves up near intelligence agency compounds in the capital Damascus, killing 44 people in the first suicide attacks since the uprising began in March.
<em>In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, an Arab league observer with the orange jacket, center, looks toward Syrian dead bodies who were killed during an explosion in Midan neighborhood in Damascus, Syria, on Friday Jan. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/SANA) </em><br><br> Jan. 6, 2012 - Two weeks later, another suicide explosion rips through a busy intersection and a police bus in the capital's Midan neighborhood, killing 26 people.
<em>In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, covered dead bodies are seen in front a damaged building at a security compound which was attacked by an explosion, in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria, on Friday Feb. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/SANA)</em><br><br> Feb. 10, 2012 - Two suicide car bombers strike in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria's largest, killing 28 people near a military intelligence building and the barracks of security forces.
<em>In this Friday, March 2, 2012, citizen journalism image provided by the Local Coordination Committees in Syria and accessed on Saturday, March 3, 2012, anti-Syrian regime protesters hold up banners during a demonstration, in Idlib, Syria. (AP Photo/Local Coordination Committees in Syria) </em><br><br> March 3, 2012 - A suicide car bomb explodes at a roundabout in Daraa, the birthplace of the uprising, killing at least two people in the first suicide attack in an opposition stronghold.
<em>In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, burnt and destroyed cars are seen near the aviation intelligence department, which was attacked by one of two explosions, in Damascus, Syria, on Saturday, March 17, 2012. (AP Photo/SANA)</em><br><br> March 17, 2012 - Three suicide bombings in Damascus kill at least 27 people, two of them near-simultaneous suicide car bomb attacks on heavily guarded intelligence and security buildings.
<em>A man reacts at a funeral of the victims killed during a suicide bombing attack in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, March 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Muzaffar Salman)</em><br><br> March 18, 2012 - An explosion hits near a government security building in Aleppo, killing one policeman and one woman.
<em>Syrian investigators, right, gather next to a damaged police bus that was attacked by an explosion in the Midan neighborhood of Damascus, Syria, on Friday April 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi)</em><br><br> April 27, 2012 - A suicide bomber in Damascus detonates an explosives belt near members of the security forces, killing at least nine people outside a mosque in the Midan neighborhood.
<em>In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a Syrian man, left, stands in front of a building that was damaged after two bombs exploded near a military compound, in the city of Idlib, northwestern Syria, Monday, April 30, 2012. (AP Photo/SANA)</em><br><br> April 30, 2012 - Twin suicide explosions near daybreak strike close to a government security compound in the city of Idlib, killing at least nine people.
<em>People look at destroyed and damaged vehicles after an explosion on al-Thawra Street in Damascus, Syria, Saturday, May 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi)</em><br><br> May 5, 2012 - A bomb strikes a car wash in Aleppo, killing at least five people a day after government troops opened fire to break up large protests against a violent university raid.
<em>In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, flames and smoke raise from burning cars after two bombs exploded, at Qazaz neighborhood in Damascus, Syria, on Thursday May 10, 2012. (AP Photo/SANA)</em><br><br> May 10, 2012 - Two suicide blasts rip through Damascus' Qazaz neighborhood, killing 55 people in an attack that targeted a military intelligence building as employees were arriving at work.
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice tweets:
|@ AmbassadorRice : #Syria regime turned artillery, tanks and helicopters on its own men & women. It unleashed knife-wielding shabiha gangs on its own children.|
Russia says international envoy Kofi Annan will visit Moscow on Monday to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria. Russia also called for an inquiry into an alleged massacre that took place in the village of Tramseh on Thursday. "We have no doubt that this wrongdoing serves the interests of those powers that are not seeking peace but persistently seek to sow the seeds of interconfessional and civilian conflict on Syrian soil," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters. Moscow did not apportion blame for the killings.
Read more on Reuters.com.
The Associated Press obtained a video that purports to show the aftermath of an alleged massacre in the village of Tramseh, near Hama.
How do Syria's fighters get their arms? An overview put together by Reuters explains that there are three gateways to the country -- Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq.
Syrian rebels are smuggling small arms into Syria through a network of land and sea routes involving cargo ships and trucks moving through Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, maritime intelligence and Free Syrian Army (FSA) officers say. Western and regional powers deny any suggestion they are involved in gun running. Their interest in the sensitive border region lies rather in screening to ensure powerful weapons such as surface to air missiles do not find their way to Islamist or other militants.
Read the full report here.
This citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a man mourning a victim killed by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of the central city of Hama, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)
According to the Hama Revolutionary Council, a Syrian opposition group, more than 220 people have been killed in a new alleged massacre in Taramseh. Earlier reports said more than 100 people were killed. "More than 220 people fell today in Taramseh," the Council said in a statement. "They died from bombardment by tanks and helicopters, artillery shelling and summary executions."
Fadi Sameh, an opposition activist from Taramseh, told Reuters he had left the town before the reported massacre but was in touch with residents. "It appears that Alawite militiamen from surrounding villages descended on Taramseh after its rebel defenders pulled out, and started killing the people. Whole houses have been destroyed and burned from the shelling," Sameh claimed.
Read more on Reuters.com.
Syrian activist Rami Jarrah tweets that Syrian State TV has confirmed deaths in Tremseh. "Terrorists" is often the term used by the Syrian regime for opposition forces.
|@ AlexanderPageSY : Syrian State TV: clashes between security apparatus & terrorists in #Tremseh of #Hama leaves large numbers of terrorists killed #Syria|
|@ Reuters : UPDATE: DEATH TOLL IN SYRIAN FORCES' ATTACK ON VILLAGE IN SYRIA'S HAMA REGION IS MORE THAN 200, MOSTLY CIVILIANS - OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS|