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In wake of Damascus killings, a bizarre scene

July 18th, 2012
05:31 PM ET

By Ken Olshansky

If, indeed, an attack took place...

CNN – Dutch journalist Sander van Hoorn was on the ground in Syria today, reporting on the deadly attack in Damascus that killed four top officials in Bashar Assad’s inner circle. His take? “It was the most bizarre scene.”

The attack took place in the heart of Damascus. And Van Hoorn reports, “Nobody has given me a good explanation for how it could be that only one hundred meters from the site of the supposed blast, people were just acting as if nothing had happened.

The key words there are ‘the supposed blast.’ When asked about conflicting reports of what actually happened, Van Hoorn said this: “I was in the hotel, so I should have been able to hear it. I didn’t.”

It must have to be an inside job

Van Hoorn is unable to confirm that an explosion even occured—and he points to state TV as the source of the confusion. “Normally, the last place to look for information would be the Syrian state television. Now, all the announcements of the people killed came from that Syrian state television. They have been broadcasting about this from the very beginning. That’s a novelty.”

While he’s not questioning whether Assad’s lieutenants are dead, he is questioning reports of how they died.

“The compound is in an upscale suburb,” he explained. “Now, any security building in Damascus will be heavily guarded… So anybody from the outside with, for example, a car bomb just driving up to that building, I don’t see that happening.”

Given the tight security, van Hoorn says, “If, indeed, it was a terrorist attack, or if indeed it was an attack by the opposition, then it must have to be an inside job.”

I’ve seen anxiety rising

Van Hoorn reports that the level of anxiety among the population depends on where in Damascus you are. In the northern suburbs, where there are heavy clashes between the Assad regime and the opposition, he saw hundreds of people fleeing. But in the center of Damascus, it’s been quiet so far.

“Over the last couple of days, I’ve seen anxiety rising,” he says, though. “That is a real shift in the heartland of Assad’s support.” If you hear an explosion, van Hoorn reports, “It may just as well be in the center. It may just as well be next to you.”

soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Mario

    I always thought gay journalists were banned in Syria. How come he knows so much?

    July 18, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Reply
    • Joost

      Not every dutchman is gay, Mario... It's a silly response!

      July 19, 2012 at 4:20 am | Reply
  2. Todd Wise

    Since living in Lebanon, I know exactly why people will behave as if nothing happened or going about the everyday. I think this likely happened even in Germany during WWII. People go about their day when atrocities could be happening miles from where they are at. People go to the store, to school, pick up groceries. It is a strange reality but absolutely the case.

    July 19, 2012 at 4:14 am | Reply
  3. gamersliverfang

    (It must have to be an inside job)
    Yeah i doubt that only the CIA would known such intel funny how the western mainstream news outlets never finger and blame the CIA on it due to the fact the CIA Has been arming and giving the rebels communication tools.

    July 19, 2012 at 4:31 am | Reply
  4. dotmafia

    But... according to 911 truth deniers, inside jobs don't happen. What gives?

    July 19, 2012 at 4:48 am | Reply
  5. mrvip

    What did he expect, people running in circles? I'm from Bulgaria and everything is business as usual today, even though we haven't got any terrorist attack in 30 years until yesterday. The airport is already open, new tourists planes already landed an hour ago. Just by looking at people 100 meters away, you wouldn't know anything happened, even yesterday. It's a strange feeling, you would expect that an event like this will cause fear and change everyday routine, but let me tell you by experience – it doesn't...

    July 19, 2012 at 11:23 am | Reply

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