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Syria: Suicide vehicle bomb hits military compound

In this citizen journalism image provided by Sham News Network SNN an anti-Syrian regime protester holds up Cross Crescent painted

In this citizen journalism image provided by Sham News Network SNN, an anti-Syrian regime protester, holds up a Cross and Crescent painted with colors of the Syrian revolution flag during a demonstration against Syrian President Bashar Assad, at the Damascus suburb of Yabroud, Syria, Friday, May 18, 2012. Syrian security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition to disperse thousands rallying Friday in Aleppo in what activists said was the largest protest yet in a city that has largely remained loyal to President Bashar Assad during the country's 15-month uprising. (AP Photo/Sham News Network, SNN)THE ASSOCIATED PRESS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS HANDOUT PHOTO

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Updated: May 19, 2012 7:00AM

BEIRUT — A suicide vehicle bomb tore through the parking lot of a military compound in an eastern Syrian city on Saturday, killing nine people, the country’s state media reported. It was the latest in a series of blasts in recent months targeting security installations.

State TV said the blast in Deir al-Zour also wounded dozens, and showed footage of damaged buildings, smoldering cars, and trucks turned upside down. Debris filled a street that was stained with blood. The station said U.N. observers based in the city visited the site of the blast.

The report said the vehicle was rigged with 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) of explosives and did heavy damage to buildings up to 100 meters (yards) away. It added that the explosion left a crater five meters wide and 2 1/2 meters deep.

The state-run news agency SANA said the blast hit the parking lot of a military residential compound, while an opposition group, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported that the bomb went off close to the city branches of the Military Intelligence Directorate and Air Force Intelligence.

Security agencies in several Syrian cities have been targeted by a wave of explosions since late last year, raising fears that al-Qaida-linked Islamist militants, possibly including fighters from neighboring Iraq, have made strong inroads into Syria’s rebel movement.

No one claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack. A group calling itself the Al-Nusra Front has claimed some previous attacks through statements posted on militant websites. Little is known about the group, although Western intelligence officials say it could be a front for an al-Qaida branch operating in Syria.

The most recent bombing targeted an intelligence building in Damascus on May 10. It struck during morning rush hour and the high death toll — some 55 people — made it the deadliest such attack since the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime began in March of last year.

Some of the tactics used in Damascus — a small blast drawing attention prior to a larger one — were reminiscent of al-Qaida attacks during Iraq’s insurgency.

Deir el-Zour is about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Iraqi border. Saturday’s blast came a day after the state-run news agency SANA reported that authorities foiled an attempt to blow up a car rigged with explosives in the city and detained those involved.

On Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he believes that “alarmingly and surprisingly,” al-Qaida must have been behind the May 10 attack in the Syrian capital.

“The recent terrorist attacks in Damascus suggest that these attacks were carefully orchestrated,” he said. “Having seen the scale and sophistication of these terrorist attacks, one might think that this terrorist attack was done by a certain group with organization and clear intent. I have strongly condemned these terrorist attacks.”

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