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Al Qaeda's Zawahiri calls for war to oust Syria's Assad

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Saturday's statement by Zawahri appears to bolster Assad's accusations, but the Syrian opposition and the Free Syrian Army reject the government's claims entirely. They accuse forces loyal to the regime of setting off the blasts to smear the opposition, terrify people into submission and exploit fears of chaos and sectarian warfare.

For many Syrians, the uncertainty over the future is cause for alarm in a country that has watched neighboring Lebanon and Iraq descend into bloody wars over the years. Syria is a fragile jigsaw puzzle of Middle Eastern backgrounds including Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites, Christians, Kurds, Druse, Circassians, Armenians and more.

Related: Syria death toll rises, but international action remains unlikely

After Friday's bombings in Aleppo, Zuheir al-Atasi, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council, accused the government of staging the attacks.

"After the heavy explosions, members of the opposition went to the site to film it. There were ambulances but no corpses. We documented that on tape," he said in Vienna during a gathering of Syrian opposition groups. "When the Syrian National TV arrived they started to bring out corpses. Once again we witnessed a theater play."

There is virtually no way to determine who was behind the attacks or to perform an independent investigation in Syria, one of the most authoritarian states in the Middle East. Assad has largely sealed off the country and prevented reporters from moving freely. The Arab League sent a now-suspended observer mission into the country to provide an outside view, but government minders accompanied the team.

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