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Islamist group says behind Damascus bombing

MYT 8:05:01 AM

DUBAI (Reuters) - An Islamist group called "the al-Nusra Front" has claimed responsibility for a bombing that targeted the Iranian Cultural Consulate in the Syrian capital Damascus last week.

In a statement posted on the Internet, the little-known group said it had carried out the attack by affixing an explosive device to a Syrian army vehicle, which was detonated when the vehicle pulled up outside the consulate.

"One of the security battalions of the al-Nusra Front on Tuesday, April 24 2012, monitored an army vehicle belonging to the Nusayri (Alawite) Assad regime and stuck an explosive device to it," the statement posted on Islamist web forum al-Shamukh said.

"Then (they) pursued it until it arrived at a building known as the Iranian Cultural Consulate (the vanguard of the intelligence of the Shiite Iranian regime in every country). And then it was detonated..."

Shi'ite Muslim Iran backed popular uprisings which have removed leaders in Egypt, Libya and Yemen but has steadfastly supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is a member of the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

The al-Nusra front also claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed at least nine people in Damascus last week, as well as a separate suicide bombing in January and several other bomb attacks in the capital and the northern city of Aleppo.

The group's full name means "the support front for the people of the Levant".

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is battling a 13-month uprising which started as a mainly peaceful protest movement but has become increasingly militarised.

The United Nations says Assad's forces have killed 9,000 people, but Syrian authorities blame foreign-backed militants for the violence and say more than 2,600 police and soldiers have been killed.

(Reporting by Isabel Coles; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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