Syrian rebels bombed a military complex in Damascus yesterday, striking at the heart of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s power and igniting a fire that gutted the army command headquarters.
The Free Syrian Army, the main rebel force fighting to overthow al-Assad, claimed responsibility for the attack, which it said killed dozens of people.
However, an armed forces statement said military leaders were unhurt and only a number of guards were wounded in the blasts, which shook the whole city at about 7am before regular working hours.
It was the biggest attack in Damascus since July 18 when a blast killed several senior security officials, including al-Assad’s brother-in-law, and the defense and interior ministers.
That attack paved the way for a rebel advance into the center of the capital, although they have since been pushed back to the outskirts.
Internet footage of yesterday’s fire at the General Staff Command Building in central Umayad Square showed flames engulfing its upper floors, indicating explosives were planted inside the building itself.
The main gate was completely blackened from the fire and all the windows of the building were blown out. Shards of glass littered the nearby streets, Reuters television footage showed.
The blast gouged a deep crater, apparently where an explosive-laden car blew up.
Residents reported that gunfire rattled around the district for at least two hours after the explosions. Roads in the area were blocked off as ambulances rushed to the scene.