Bomb kills 6 near mosque in Damascus

DAMASCUS, Syria, Sept. 7 (UPI) -- A motorcycle bomb exploded Friday outside a mosque in Damascus, killing six people and injuring others, Syria's state-run news agency reported.

The bomb went off near al-Ruknieh mosque as worshipers were leaving, SANA said.


A bomb also exploded near the Justice Palace and Information Ministry, damaging nearby shops and buildings, the report said.

Syria's civilian population is bearing the brunt of the violence in the country -- caught in fighting between government forces and rebels, international officials and observers say.

With opposition groups increasing their military activity and government forces using heavy weaponry, the impact is increasingly on civilians, Voice of America reported.

The conflict has taken "a particularly brutal turn," United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the General Assembly.

"Syrian government forces continue indiscriminate shelling of densely populated areas with heavy weapons, tanks and air assets," Ban said. "Opposition groups have stepped up military activity. Civilians bear the brunt of the violence."

Increasingly, the regime of President Bashar Assad is turning to its air force, which is bombing heavily populated areas, observers said.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights said it had documented the deaths of 129 people Friday, including 15 children and five women. Thirty-three were killed in Damascus and vicinity, 31 in Aleppo, 21 in Homs, 19 in Dier Alzoor, 13 in Idlib, and six each in Latakia and Deraa, the rights group said.


A total of 177 people, including seven women and 11 children, were killed Thursday, the rights group said.

The group's death figures were not independently confirmed.

The bombing campaign is a desperate effort by Syria to weaken the opposition by undermining morale, one analyst said.

"It's a scorched-earth policy," said David Schenker, director of Arab politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "[The Assad regime] understands that it cannot negotiate its way out of the problem."

As the fighting has worsened, the call for international assistance has increased.

France announced Thursday it would give funds to five revolutionary councils in parts of Syria held by rebels, The New York Times reported.

Eric Chevallier, a senior French diplomat, said the money would be used to restore water supplies, sanitation, health services and bakeries.

France is not providing weapons to the rebel Free Syrian Army, but French diplomats say they talk regularly with the rebels to determine their needs, and encourage them to uphold democratic values and protect minorities.

Three U.S. senators visiting Iraq Thursday -- Joseph Lieberman, Ind-Conn., John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsay Graham, R-S.C. -- urged President Nouri al-Maliki to support efforts to topple Assad.


Iraq has reportedly allowed Iranian aircraft to use its airspace to fly supplies to Assad's forces in Syria.

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