Syria says 53 killed in Damascus car bomb


Published — Thursday 21 February 2013

Last update 26 February 2013 3:23 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

DAMASCUS: A car bombing near Syria’s ruling party headquarters in Damascus killed 53 people on Thursday, according to state media, while mortar rounds exploded near the army’s central command in the city.
It was the third straight day of attacks on the center of the capital, among the deepest and fiercest on the heart of Bashar Assad’s seat of power during the civil war.
The car bombing was the deadliest attack inside Damascus in nine months and within hours, two other bombings and a mortar attack on the military compound followed.
While no one group has claimed responsibility, the attacks suggest that rebel fighters who have gotten bogged down in their attempts to storm the capital are resorting to guerrilla tactics to loosen Assad’s grip on the capital.
The day’s deadliest attack struck a main street on the edge of central Mazraa neighborhood, near the headquarters of Assad’s Baath party and the Russian Embassy, as well as a mosque, a hospital and a school.
TV footage of the blast site showed firemen dousing a flaming car with hoses and lifeless and dismembered bodies blown into the grass of a nearby park. The state news service, SANA, published photos showing a large crater in the middle of the rubble-strewn street and charred cars holding blackened bodies.
Witnesses at the scene said a car exploded at a security checkpoint between the Russian Embassy and the central headquarters of Assad’s ruling party.
“It was huge. Everything in the shop turned upside down,” one local resident said. He said three of his employees were injured by flying glass that killed a young girl who was walking by when the blast hit.
“I pulled her inside the shop but she was almost gone. We couldn’t save her. She was hit in the stomach and head,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution for speaking with foreign media.
Ambulances rushed to the scene of the blast, which shattered windows and sent up a huge cloud of smoke visible throughout much of the city, witnesses said.
State TV called it a “terrorist” attack by a suicide bomber. It said at least 53 people were killed and more than 200 wounded.
The Britain-based activist group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 42 people were killed, most of them civilians. Some members of the Syrian security forces were also killed, it said.
There was no way to immediately reconcile the differing death tolls.
The bombing appeared to be the second most deadly in the Syrian capital since the uprising against Assad began 23 months ago. Fifty-five people were killed in the first, a double suicide bombing outside of an intelligence building in May, 2012.
The most extreme of Syria’s rebel groups, Jabhat Al-Nusra, claimed responsibility for that and other bombings that have struck targets associated with the regime but also killed civilians.
Such tactics have galvanized Assad’s supporters and made many other Syrians distrustful of the rebel movement as a whole, most of whose fighting groups do not use such tactics.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Thursday’s attack.
Russia’s state owned RIA Novosti news agency quoted a Russian Embassy official as saying the Embassy building had been damaged in the blast but no one was hurt.
Among those wounded by flying glass was Nayef Hawatmeh, the leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a radical Damascus-based Palestinian group.
An official at his office, about 500 yards from the site of the explosion, said Hawatmeh was wounded in the hands and face from flying glass. He was taken to hospital and later released.
In a separate attack, Syrian state TV said mortar shells exploded near the Syrian Army General Command in central Damascus, causing no casualties. The station said the building was empty because it was under renovation.
The Britain-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said two mortar rounds struck near the building but did not report casualties.
On Wednesday, two mortar shells exploded next to a soccer stadium in Damascus, killing one player. The day before, two mortar shells blew up near one of Assad’s three palaces in the city, causing only material damage.
Between the car bomb and the mortar attack near the army command, a security official reported another blast in the capital’s northeastern Barzeh neighborhood. He had no other information and spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.
The Observatory, which relies on a network of anti-regime activists inside Syria, said two car bombs had exploded near security centers in Barzeh, followed by intense clashes between rebels and security forces.
Syrian state media also reported that security forces in Damascus had arrested a second, would-be suicide bomber driving a car full of explosives near the site of the Mazraa bombing.
Damascus has so far mostly avoided the large-scale violence that has destroyed other Syrian cities, though deadly car bombings have targeted government buildings in the capital.
In May 2012, twin car bombs exploded outside a military intelligence building, killing 55 people in the deadliest attack against a regime target in the capital since the uprising began 23 months ago.
And in July, rebels detonated explosives inside a high-level crisis meeting in Damascus that killed four top regime officials, including Assad’s brother-in-law and the defense minister.
Following that attack, rebel groups who have established footholds in suburbs of the capital pushed in, clashing with government forces for more than a week before being routed and pushed out.
Since then, government jets have heavily bombed rebel-held suburbs and rebels have managed only small incursions on the city’s south and east sides.
In the southern town of Daraa, where Syria’s uprising began nearly two years ago, the Observatory said the 18 people killed in the airstrike included eight rebel fighters, three medics, one woman and one young girl.
A video posted online said to be of the event showed the bodies of dead and wounded people being loaded in to the back of trucks and moved to another location. Some were bloody and had bandaged heads, while others were carried out on stretchers.
Syria’s conflict began in March 2011 with political protests against the government and has since evolved into a civil war between Assad’s regime and hundreds of rebel groups seeking to topple it. The UN says some 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict so far.
International diplomacy has failed to slow the fighting.
On Thursday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said his message to Assad is that “it is time to go.”
He said the senseless killing must be brought to an end through a credible political process leading to a transition in Syria.
He also called on Assad to respond to a dialogue offer made recently by Syrian opposition chief Mouaz Al-Khatib.
“A political settlement, a political agreement on a transition is the way forward in Syria to bring to an end this terrible and unacceptable loss of life.”
Al-Khatib has said he is open to talks with the regime that could pave the way for Assad’s departure, but that the Syrian leader must first release tens of thousands of detainees. The government has refused.
Hubbard reported from Beirut. Associated Press writer Zeina Karam contributed reporting from Beirut.

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: The Kingdom has taken the right approach to counter the operations of terrorists groups, which includes cutting off their funding, according to several leading experts.This comes in the wake of Saudi Arabia blacklisting on Thursday 12 people...
RIYADH: The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MCI) won the award for providing the Best E-Government Service among Gulf Cooperation Council countries.The award, “Best E-Government Service” for the E-Commercial Registration, was given during the four...
RIYADH: The Kingdom and Britain signed an executive agreement on Wednesday in Riyadh on medical training for Saudi postgraduate students on specialized subjects.The agreement was signed by Health Minister Khalid Al-Falih and Minister of State for Com...
JEDDAH: Of youths under the age of 20, 5 to 10 percent suffer from diabetes, said Vice President of the Saudi Society for Children’s Medicine and head of the third annual conference for diabetes patients Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al-Toweim.The two-day...
TAIF: Voters taking photographs inside election booths would have their votes disqualified for the municipal council elections taking place on Dec. 12, according to Taif’s election committee.They would also be excluded if they use their mobile phones...
ISLAMABAD: Jamia Ashrafiya President Sheikh Fahad Rahim has lauded the role of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman as well as the Muslim World League (MWL) in serving the cause of Islam and uniting Muslims around the world.He was speaking d...
JEDDAH: The Memon Welfare Society (MWS) felicitated meritorious students from the community at its fourth annual awards distribution ceremony here recently.Abdullah Yousuf was the first to come and take his prize for securing top position in Grade 8...
RIYADH: A Filipino worker claims that he has been waiting for over a year for his former company to pay him SR68,880, which is his end-of-service benefit after leaving the company last November and returning home.Bukhari Nor Cali, 59, from Mindanao,...
JEDDAH: Adults are often the last ones to know when a child is bullied at school. However, parents or school authorities should step in if any child is being beaten, threatened or taunted by another pupil. A high school boy was beaten up and harassed...
RIYADH: Six winners — five authors and a researcher from scientific and educational institutions — have been announced as winners in the King Abdul Aziz Book Award this year.The committee for the King Abdulaziz Book Award said the works of the winner...
RIYADH: The Kingdom now has 67 female lawyers out of 3,400 in the country, according to a report released by the Justice Ministry.The report said that 65 male lawyers were registered at the beginning of the Islamic year on Oct. 14, and four female la...
JEDDAH: Jeddah police are investigating the theft and signature forgery of six checks from the Jeddah municipality headquarters.The Anti-Forgery Department was assigned to locate all information related to the check forgery cases. Local media estimat...
MAKKAH: Certain areas of Makkah witness a regular scene in the morning of a number of men waiting for car-washing work and make some money.After their morning duties, these men leave for other work as plumbers, electricians and rock breakers in mount...
RIYADH: A ‘Diabetes Detection’ campaign has been launched under the National Diabetes Prevention and Control Program of the Ministry of Health (MoH).The MoH has joined efforts with the Al-Abeer Medical Group, KIMS Sun City medical centers and the AXA...
RIYADH: Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said on Thursday that a military option in Syria was still viable and support for the opposition fighting to oust President Bashar Assad would continue.Speaking at a news conference with visiting Austrian Forei...

Events & Exhibitions

Stay Connected