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Dozens Killed In Syria: Regime Blames Terrorists, Opposition Blames Regime

"Twin suicide car bomb blasts ripped through an upscale Damascus district Friday, targeting security and intelligence buildings and killing at least 40 people" according to authorities, The Associated Press writes.

NPR's Deborah Amos says it's the "first such attack since the beginning of a 10-month revolt" against President Bashar Assad's regime.

Now there's the question of who is responsible.

President Bashar Assad's regime was quick to declare it was the work of terrorists — a claim that supports its contention that it's not at fault for the deaths of several thousand people this year because it is battling armed gangs and terrorists, even though the U.N. has said the regime is to blame for as many as 5,000 deaths.

Those who have been protesting against Assad's authoritarian regime are saying, according to the BBC, that "the government ... staged the attacks to influence an Arab League observer team" that arrived in Syria on Thursday to monitor the situation.

NPR's Amos, who is following the news in Syria from Beirut, says government officials "escorted the [Arab League] monitors through the smoking wreckage even before the dead were removed."

Update at 4:54 p.m. ET. Skeptical Of Government Claims:

NPR's Deb Amos reported on All Things Considered that the government in Damascus was quick to blame al-Qaida for the attack and they made that accusation clear to the visiting monitors.

Deb spoke to Salman Shaikh, a fellow at Brookings' Saban Center for Middle East Policy, who said he was "deeply skeptical of the government's claims," especially because they were made very quickly after the bombing.

Deb also pointed out that the bombing has diverted attention from the clashes that have left scores of Syrians dead in the northern part of the country.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.