Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Jihad Turns to Arab Capitals

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Jihad Turns to Arab Capitals

Article excerpt

When suspected Islamic militants set off a bomb in the heart of Damascus Tuesday night and fought with Syrian security forces, it demonstrated that no Arab country can consider itself immune from terrorism.

The attack, the first of its kind in Damascus for over two decades, came days after Jordanian officials announced they had foiled a potentially devastating chemical-bomb plot in Amman. It also came a week after a suicide car bomb destroyed a Saudi security forces building in Riyadh, killing four people and wounding 150 others.

"This is a manifestation of a war led by these militants under a jihad that is not only outward but inward. It's a holy struggle not only against the United States and other allied countries but also against Arab regimes," says Nizar Hamzeh, professor of politics at the American University of Beirut.

Even Syria's traditionally staunch opposition to Israel is not enough to safeguard it from attacks by Islamic militants, he adds.

The attack in the Mezze suburb of Damascus, home to several embassies and international agencies, appeared to be amateurish.

The gang was spotted placing explosives beneath a car parked outside a building that once housed offices for the United Nations. The blast set the empty building alight, and a gun battle with Syrian security forces ensued. The Interior Ministry said four people were killed in the fighting: two militants, a policeman, and a bystander. Two militants were detained; one led police to a cache containing rocket-propelled grenades, automatic weapons, gas cylinders, and bags of yellow powder.

Ahmad al-Haj Ali, an adviser to the Syrian information minister, told the Arabic Al Jazeera television channel that the attackers "wanted to give the impression that there is no area or place safe from these acts, particularly as Syria has been enjoying a state of stability. …

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