TEHRAN (FNA)- Syrian security forces were hunting Sunday for the culprits behind a car bombing that killed 17 people in the capital city of Damascus.
A car packed with 200 kilos (440 pounds) of explosives blew up near a security checkpoint on a road to Damascus airport in what Interior Minister General Bassam Abdel Majid called “a terrorist act.”
All the casualties were civilians, he told state television, adding, “A counter-terrorist unit is trying to track down the perpetrators.”
Saturday’s blast was the deadliest since a spate of attacks in the 1980s left nearly 150 dead.
The bombing near a Shiite shrine in Damascus drew worldwide condemnation. Analysts said the attack could have been aimed at splitting Syria’s alliance with Iran.
Iran, which condemned the attack as a terrorist move, said those who plan to force Syria relinquishing its support for the resistance are behind a recent blast in Damascus.
“Such blind moves will make the Syrians firmer in supporting the resistance,” Iran’s ambassador to Damascus Ahmad Moussavi said.
Moussavi said that Syria is under Israel and US pressure for supporting the Lebanese and Palestinian resistant groups, calling for the unconditional return of the Golan Heights, its close relationship with Tehran and supporting Iran’s peaceful nuclear program.
Some media reports try to propagate that the Europeans aim to distance Syria from Iran, and claim that Damascus will halt supporting resistant groups following the indirect peace talks with Israel.
“Iran and Syria are inseparable,” the ambassador said, adding that Iranian and Syrian leaders are willing to strengthen solidarity and expand all-out ties.
The Iranian diplomat said Tehran and Damascus have thwarted conspiracies by the United States and Israel through adopting prudent policies.
Syria has also witnessed the assassinations of a top Hezbollah commander and a Syrian General this year.
The Arab League condemned the bombing as a “a criminal operation that terrorized those who felt secure, but it won’t achieve its criminal goal.”
Ryad Kahwaji, a Dubai-based analyst, said, “Damascus is trying to reassure Tehran that the peace will not be at the expense of their alliance.”
“This could be a message to Syria to abandon its alliance with Iran,” he added.
Razzouk Ghawi, a Syrian political analyst, said he believed the attack was a bid to torpedo improving relations between Damascus and Western capitals.
“The latest positive political developments in Syria’s relations, notably with France, strengthen Damascus’s international position and this displeases Israel.”
The attack, rare in a country known for its iron-fisted security, struck the teeming Shiite neighborhood of Sayeda Zeinab (AS).
The district draws tens of thousands of Shiite pilgrims from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon each year to pray at the tomb of Hazrat Zeinab (AS), daughter of Shiites’ first Imam, Hazrat Ali (AS), and granddaughter of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).
“It’s a US-backed Israeli conspiracy to destabilize the Syrian regime and create enough chaos to produce an opposition that would develop and grow under the sponsorship of Israel and the United States,” Hashem al-Khaledi said in Jordan’s Al-Dustur newspaper, blaming the Mossad spy agency.
“They are seeking to topple the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, who is seen by the United States and Israel as an obstacle facing their schemes in the region.”
Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah condemned the “atrocious attack,” saying it serves only “the enemy of the ‘ummah’ (nation) in creating chaos and instability in the region.”
Top Hezbollah commander Imad Mughnieh, who was on Israeli and US most wanted lists, was killed in a Damascus car bombing in February.
In August, Syria confirmed the assassination of army General Mohammed Sleiman, described in Arab media as Syria’s liaison with Hezbollah.