3 people, including a 13 year old boy, have died after a bus exploded in southern Damascus.
The tragedy is said to have happened at a petrol station near Saida Zeinab, the Shia shrine in the southern suburbs. At first, it seemed almost certain it was a terrorist attack, with journalists gleefully pointing out that there was a bus bomb in the same area just one year ago. Although the journalists in London and Washington got the location very wrong last time, as they probably did this time (in 2008, the attack was closer to the Christian shrines of Bab Touma than the Shia shrine of Saida Zeinab).
As the day progressed, it became clear that this was a tragic accident, rather than a deliberate attack. First, pictures emerged showing the bus largely intact, then the death toll was lowered from an estimated 14, to 6 and then to 3. And finally Interior Minister Said Sammour confirmed that the explosion was caused by a tyre, which blew up as it was being pumped. On previous occasions, Syrian officials have been quick to point the finger at terrorists because it brings Syria on to the right side of the war on terror.
Chris Phillips at the Guardian jumped the gun embarrassingly, jumping on the terrorism bandwagon before the facts were known. In an incredibly offensive, and insensitive statement, he suggests: “There is an element of karma here, given that the Syrian government previously facilitated many such groups in their passage to fight the insurgency in Iraq.”
Sounding very much like Pat Robertson or a wacky Saudi cleric who wags his finger and says ‘they deserve it’ when disaster strikes, Phillips hasn’t even got his facts straight. No-one, except the most ardent neo-con, suggests that Syria has “facilitated” the passage of militants into Iraq. At worst, Syria is accused of not securing its border well enough.
Anyway, I’d prefer to focus on the 3 innocent lives lost this morning at 9.30am. The Iranian bus driver (who was taking Iranian pilgrims to Saida Zeinab) plus 2 petrol station workers (one of them was aged 13) died in horrific fashion as they did their jobs.
Don’t forget them as others try to play politics with this tragic accident.