53 people killed, over 200 injured in Damascus car bomb blast (PHOTOS, VIDEO)21/02/2013 23:32
At least 53 people have been killed and over 200 wounded in a massive car bomb blast that's hit the Syrian capital of Damascus, according to Syrian state TV. The explosion shook a square where pro-government rallies are usually staged.
The Syrian foreign ministry has blamed the attack on al-Qaeda linked "terrorist" groups. The opposition's Damascus media office says that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has "denied responsibility for the blast and blamed it on the regime."
Police indicated that the victims were mostly civilians, including at least four children. Palestinian leader Nayef Hawatma was among the injured, AFP reported.
The car bombing occurred on a busy highway close to ruling Baath Party offices and the Russian Embassy. The blast caused damage to the nearby Abdullah Bin al-Zabir school and al-Hayat Hospital.
Al-Ikhbariya TV station showed footage of what appeared to be at least four dead bodies on the ground and cars on fire.
“It was huge, everything in the shop turned upside down,” one local resident told AP on condition of anonymity.
Authorities seized a car loaded with cylinder-shaped bath water heaters filled with explosives. The person driving the car was arrested, SANA news agency reported.
Political analyst and Geo-strategic expert Amine Hotait says the bombing shows the desperation of terror groups in Syria.
“They have carried out these desperate attacks, hoping to stop any possible negotiations that might lead to a peaceful solution for the crisis, and they're aiming to punish the Syrian people for their steadfastness and for their rejection of any form of fighting and terrorism,” Hotait told RT Arabic.
A Russian diplomat told RIA-Novosti the windows were broken in the Russian Embassy, but provided no information on whether anyone was killed or injured in the explosion.
State media reported the "terrorist explosion" caused casualties, but didn't specify numbers, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, an RT Arabic correspondent said there were three blasts in Damascus, contrary to the majority of current reports. Activists confirm that information, though provide no further details. A security source confirmed the second explosion, while the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed two blasts followed the first one.
Syrian state TV says mortar shells went off next to the Syrian Army General Command in central Damascus following the bombing.
The mortar shells attacks caused no casualties, as confirmed by the Britain-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Syrian TV indicated that the building was empty at the time of the attack, as it is under renovation.
Rebels who control districts to the south and east of Damascus have attacked Assad's power base for nearly a month and struck with devastating bombs over the last year.
The al-Qaeda linked rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra, which claimed responsibility for several of the blasts, says it carried out 17 attacks around Damascus in the first half of February, including at least seven bombings.
Also on Thursday, warplanes bombed the southern city of Deraa, where the uprising against Assad began in March 2011. Eighteen people were killed, according to activists.
The situation in Syria remains tense, with the popular uprising reaching its second year. The UN puts casualties at 70,000 and the number of displaced Syrians at more than 850,000.