Sui­cide car bombers hit Da­m­as­cus; 18 killed

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL - DA­M­AS­CUS: Ex­ten­sive dam­age

A sui­cide car bomber pur­sued by se­cu­rity forces blew him­self up in eastern Da­m­as­cus yesterday, with a mon­i­tor re­port­ing 18 killed in the dead­li­est at­tack to hit the Syr­ian cap­i­tal in months. Syr­ian state me­dia and the Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights mon­i­tor­ing group said se­cu­rity forces in­ter­cepted three car bombers on their way into the city yesterday morn­ing. State tele­vi­sion said two of the ve­hi­cles were blown up on the out­skirts of the city. A third man­aged to reach the eastern Tahrir Square district, where he was sur­rounded but able to det­o­nate a bomb.

The Ob­ser­va­tory, a Bri­tain-based mon­i­tor, said 18 peo­ple were killed in the bomb­ing, in­clud­ing at least seven mem­bers of pro-regime se­cu­rity forces and two civil­ians. It had not iden­ti­fied the re­main­ing vic­tims. Syr­ian state news agency SANA quoted an in­te­rior min­istry state­ment as say­ing two of the ve­hi­cles had been “de­stroyed” at a round­about on the road to the city’s air­port. The driver of the third blew him­self up while be­ing pur­sued, it said, “killing a num­ber of civil­ians, in­jur­ing oth­ers, and caus­ing ma­te­rial dam­age to pub­lic and pri­vate prop­er­ties.”

An AFP cor­re­spon­dent at Tahrir Square saw ex­ten­sive dam­age to nearby build­ings. Two bombed-out cars were vis­i­ble to one side of the square, which was strewn with de­bris. A woman was cry­ing in an apart­ment near the site of the at­tack. Her bal­cony had col­lapsed and the liv­ing room was a mess of bro­ken glass and shat­tered ma­sonry, with pic­tures and cur­tains strewn across the floor. The woman said her daugh­ter had been taken to hos­pi­tal af­ter be­ing in­jured by fly­ing glass.

Tahrir Square res­i­dent Mo­ham­mad Ti­nawi said that he had heard “gun­fire at around 6:00 am (0300 GMT), then an ex­plo­sion which smashed the glass of houses in the neigh­bor­hood.” He said he had seen Red Cres­cent vol­un­teers treat­ing two wounded sol­diers. A shop­keeper con­firmed that the ex­plo­sion had gone off at around 6:00 am. Da­m­as­cus has been spared the large-scale bat­tles that have dev­as­tated other ma­jor Syr­ian cities dur­ing the coun­try’s six-year civil war.

But dozens of peo­ple have been killed in bomb­ings, par­tic­u­larly on the out­skirts of the cap­i­tal. In mid-March, bomb at­tacks on a court­house and restau­rant in cen­tral Da­m­as­cus killed 32 peo­ple. That rare as­sault in the heart of the city, which re­mains un­der govern­ment con­trol, was claimed by the Is­lamic State group. That came days af­ter two ex­plo­sions that left 74 dead in the cap­i­tal’s Old City and were claimed by the Tahrir AlSham coali­tion led by the ji­hadist Fateh al-Sham Front.

Bat­tle­fronts around Da­m­as­cus have calmed since a May deal that saw op­po­si­tion fight­ers with­draw from sev­eral neigh­bor­hoods, along with a sep­a­rate agree­ment on “de-es­ca­la­tion” zonesin­clud­ing one in a rebel strong­hold just outside the cap­i­tal. Syria’s con­flict broke out with anti-govern­ment protests in 2011, but has since evolved into a mul­ti­front war that has killed more than 320,000 peo­ple.— AFP

DA­M­AS­CUS: Syr­i­ans in­spect the site of a sui­cide bomb at­tack in Da­m­as­cus’ eastern Tahrir Square district yesterday. — AFP

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