BEIRUT (TIP): A car bomb killed 53people and wounded 200 in centralDamascus on Thursday when it blewup on a busy highway close to rulingBaath Party offices and the Russianembassy, Syrian TV said.Television footage showed charredand bloodied bodies strewn across thestreet after the blast, which state mediasaid was the result of a suicidebombing by “terrorists” battlingPresident Bashar al-Assad’s forces.Central Damascus has beenrelatively insulated from almost twoyears of unrest and civil war in whicharound 70,000 people have been killedacross the country, but the bloodshedhas shattered suburbs around thecapital.
Rebels who control districts to thesouth and east of the capital haveattacked Assad’s power base for nearlya month and struck with devastatingbombs in the last year.The al-Qaida-linked rebel groupJabhat al-Nusra, which claimedresponsibility for several of thosebombs, says it carried out 17 attacksaround Damascus in the first half ofFebruary, including at least sevenbombings.Activists said most of the victims ofThursday’s attack in the city’s Mazraadistrict were civilians, includingchildren, possibly from a school behindthe Baath building.
Opposition activists reported furtherexplosions elsewhere in the city afterthe explosion which struck shortlybefore 11 am (0900 GMT).One resident in the heart of thecapital heard three or four projectileswhistling through the sky, followed byexplosions. At least one of them landedin a public garden in the AbuRummaneh district, but no one washurt.The Britain-based SyrianObservatory for Human Rights, whichmonitors violence via a network ofsources inside Syria, said the bombdetonated at a checkpoint locatedabout 200 metres from the Russianembassy. Russia’s Itar-Tass newsagency quoted a diplomat as sayingthe blast blew out windows at theembassy but no employees werewounded. “The building has reallybeen damaged … The windows areshattered.”The vehicle was carrying between 1and 1.5 tonnes of explosives, Damascusgovernor Bishr Sabban said.