At least seven were killed in anti-government related unrest across Syria on Saturday, as a shadowy militant group claimed responsibility for Thursday’s deadly twin attacks in Damascus.
The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says government shelling and security force raids left at least three civilians dead. The government says four security force members, including a colonel, were killed near Damascus. It blamed “armed terrorists” for the attacks.
Meanwhile, a video posted online says the al-Nusra Front militant group is responsible for the twin bombings in the capital that killed at least 55 people.
Middle East analyst M.J. Gohel says the group recently began gaining prominence.
“This is a group that not a great deal is known about it,” said Gohel. “It emerged at the beginning of this year in January and it has a global Jihadist agenda and it calls its fighters Mujahadeen in the same way as the Taliban fighters.”
Gohel, the head of the London-Based Asia-Pacific Foundation, says the group’s strengths and capabilities are unclear.
“This could be just a propaganda small group,” Gohel added. “It is not known what kind of ground capable operational capability it has. All we know is that it has made all kinds of claims.”
Syria’s state-run SANA news agency says Prime Minister Adel Safar visited the blast sites, Saturday, and wounded victims at a local hospital. He condemned the attack as a “heinous act” with “no relation to any human values.”
The unrest took place as U.N. observers continued to fan out across Syria to monitor the government and the opposition’s compliance to a cease-fire brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan.
On Saturday, the monitors received 24 armored vehicles that were donated by the European Union.
EU ambassador to Syria Vassilis Bontosoglou said the vehicles show the EU’s support of Annan’s mission.
“This is an expression of commitment of the European Union to the Kofi Annan plan,” said Bontosoglou.
The U.N. says more than 9,000 people have been killed in violence related to the anti-government uprising which erupted in March 2011.
Also Saturday, Turkish officials say two journalists who went missing in Syria in March have been freed as a result of Iranian mediation.
Officials say the two men have been flown to Tehran.