The coffins were lined up in the Umayyad Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites
24 December 2011 Last updated at 17:17
Thousands of people have attended the funerals of the 44 victims of Friday’s twin bomb attacks in Syria’s capital, Damascus, amid a strong show of support for President Bashar al-Assad.
Mourners flew flags of the ruling Baath party and held portraits of Mr Assad.
Syria blamed the attacks on al-Qaeda, but the opposition said they were staged by the government to justify its crackdown on anti-Assad protesters.
The attacks came a day after an Arab League mission began in Syria.
It is tasked with monitoring whether the government complies with a peace agreement that orders all troops to withdraw from the streets, with the aim of ending the violence.
Syrian television carried live pictures of the victims’ coffins, six marked “unknown”, as they were lined up inside the Umayyad Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites.
Mourners chanted “Death to America” and “We sacrifice our souls and blood for you, Bashar” during the funeral processions.
The attacks targeted two security buildings in Damascus
Cleric Said al-Bouti said he hoped the attacks would lift “the veils on the eyes of the Arab League… so that they see who is the murderer and who is the victim”.
Religious Affairs Minister Abdel Sattar al-Sayyed read a statement he said was from Christian and Muslim leaders: “We call upon the Syrian people to be aware that Syria is being targeted, and affirm that we stand with them in the face of this plot. We reject any sort of extremism.”
No-one has said they carried out the suicide attacks, which targeted two security service bases in the Kafr Sousa area of Damascus. A total of 166 people were injured.
But opposition groups accused the government of orchestrating them.
The Syrian National Council said “the Syrian regime, alone, bears all the direct responsibility for the two terrorist explosions” as it wanted to give the impression “it faces danger from abroad and not a popular revolution”.
The Muslim Brotherhood, part of the council, said the government had set up a fake website purporting to represent the Brotherhood and claiming responsibility for the bombings.
Senior Brotherhood figure Muhammad Riyad al-Shaqfah said: “They created a website which they called the MB website and posted a false statement. The website is false, and so is the statement.”
The main Arab League team has yet to arrive.
Sudanese Gen Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi said he would go to Damascus on Saturday to head the delegation.
About 50 monitors are set to arrive on Monday, with the team eventually reaching 150-200.
Gen Dabi said he was “optimistic that the mission of the monitors will be successful”.
Reform activists fear Friday’s bombings will spark a renewed crackdown on dissent.
They said the violence continued on Saturday, with shelling in the city of Homs killing at least three people in the Baba Amr district.
More than 5,000 people have been killed and thousands more detained since anti-government protests erupted in March, the UN says.
The claims have not been independently verified, as most foreign media are banned from reporting in Syria.