Mon, Jan 21, 2019 - Page 1 News List

‘Huge explosion’ rocks Syrian capital

AFP, DAMASCUS

A bomb blast yesterday hit the capital of war-torn Syria and a “terrorist” was arrested, state media said, in a rare attack in the city that has been largely insulated from violence.

A Britain-based war monitor said a “huge explosion” near a military intelligence office in southern Damascus had left a number of people dead and wounded.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said that a “bomb blast” had caused an explosion “without leaving any victims.”

“There is confirmation of reports that a terrorist has been arrested,” it said.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told reporters that “the explosion took place near a security branch in the south of the city.”

“There are some people killed and injured, but we could not verify the toll immediately,” it said.

It was unclear if the blast was caused by a bomb that was planted or a suicide attack, said the monitor, which relies on a network of sources inside the country.

Shooting followed the explosion, it said.

Syria is locked in a nearly eight-year civil war that has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions.

Damascus has been largely spared the worst of the violence, but several bomb attacks have shaken the capital.

Another bombing yesterday killed three people and wounded nine others in the northern city of Afrin on the first anniversary of a Turkish offensive on the Kurdish-majority region, the observatory said.

With key military backing from Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have retaken large parts of Syria from rebels and extremists, and now control almost two-thirds of the country.

The Syrian regime in May last year reclaimed a final scrap of territory held by the Islamic State group in southern Damascus, cementing total control over the capital for the first time in six years.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said that the Damascus blast appeared to be the first attack in the city since a car bomb more than a year ago that caused no casualties.

The city has been hit repeatedly by bloody bombings throughout Syria’s devastating conflict. In March 2017, a double suicide attack claimed by al-Qaeda’s former affiliate in the country killed 74 people, including dozens of Iranian pilgrims visiting religious sites in the historic Old City.

That was followed a few days later by bombings claimed by the Islamic State group at a courthouse and restaurant that killed 32 people.

One of the most high-profile attacks in the capital saw a bomb kill al-Assad’s brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, a top security official, and the minister of defense at a command center in July 2012.

Since regime forces reclaimed control of Damascus and surrounding regions, security forces have removed many of the security checkpoints that dotted the city.

Government troops have largely pushed remaining rebel and extremist forces into the northwestern province of Idlib, while the Islamic State holds a few dwindling pockets of territory.

The Afrin blast was the result of a bomb placed in a bus in the center of the city, the observatory said.

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