DAMASCUS, Syria >> A suicide bomber blew himself up across the street from a mosque in the Syrian capital Friday, killing at least nine people and wounding nearly 30, state TV said. Thousands of Syrians protested elsewhere to denounce persistent violence by President Bashar Assad’s regime.
The blast was the latest blow to a peace plan brokered by special envoy Kofi Annan that called for a cease-fire to go into effect two weeks ago. The truce has been roundly ignored on the ground, and the U.N. has only 15 monitors in Syria who are trying to salvage it.
Syrian cities have been hit by a wave of blasts in recent months that the regime often blames on “terrorists” trying to destabilize the country. Opposition activists usually deny that, blaming government forces for carrying out the attacks as a way to tarnish the uprising that began in March 2011.
The violence, including continued government shelling of opposition strongholds, comes despite a diplomatic push to end the year-old crisis. An uprising against Assad that began in March 2011 with largely peaceful protests has morphed into an armed insurgency.
The blast in the capital’s Midan neighborhood went off across the street from a mosque.
Syrian TV aired footage of white smoke billowing from under a bridge as people streamed out of a mosque. The streets were stained with blood.
State TV reported that nine people were killed and 30 wounded. Health Minister Nader al-Halqi confirmed at least eight dead and said they included seven policemen.
Midan has been the site of frequent anti-government protests in the past. In January, an explosion in the same neighborhood killed at least 26 people and wounded 63.
The anti-government protests, which usually take place on Fridays across the country, typically begin following noon prayers as worshippers stream out of mosques.
It’s not clear who is behind the string of recent suicide attacks and bombings. The government blames the opposition, which it says is made up of “terrorist” groups acting out a foreign conspiracy. But some opposition leaders accused the regime carrying out the attacks as a way to tarnish the uprising.
On Friday, activists reported that thousands of people protested in the northern city of Aleppo, the central region of Hama and the northern province of Idlib.
An amateur video posted online Thursday showed people carrying the body of a boy said to have been shot dead by Syrian troops in the southern city of Daraa — apparently an attempt to display the body to U.N. monitors nearby.
At one point some people jump on a U.N. vehicle while others bang on it with their hands. Others cordon the vehicles to protect the observers.
More observers are expected in Syrian the coming days. The U.N. has approved increasing the mission to 300 observers.
The U.N. monitoring team’s spokesman said international monitors have moved into another hot spot in Syria to try to stop the violence with two observers stationed in the southern city of Daraa, the birthplace of the uprising.