A powerful bomb ripped through a bustling commercial district of Damascus on Tuesday, killing at least 14 people, shattering store fronts and bringing Syria’s civil war to the heart of the capital for the second consecutive day.
A day earlier, Syrian Prime Minister Wael Nader al-Halqi narrowly escaped an assassination attempt after a car bomb struck near his convoy, a few kilometers from Tuesday’s blast.
The bombings appear to be part of an accelerated campaign by opposition forces to hit Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the heavily defended capital.
Tuesday’s bombing struck the Marjeh neighborhood, a bustling commercial area near the Old City of Damascus, Syrian TV said.
It described the explosion as a “terrorist bombing,” using the term al-Assad’s regime uses to refer to opposition fighters. The state news agency said 14 people were killed and 103 wounded in the attack.
“I heard a very loud bang and then the ceiling collapsed on top of me,” said Zaher Nafeq, who owns a mobile phone shop in Damascus Towers, a 23-story office building.
His hand was wounded and his shop was badly damaged in the blast.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, but car bombs and suicide attacks targeting Damascus and other cities that remain under government control in the third year of the conflict have been claimed in the past by Jabhat al-Nusra — one of scores of rebel factions fighting to oust al-Assad.
The target of Tuesday’s attack was not immediately clear, although the explosion took place outside the former Syrian Interior Ministry building that was also damaged in the blast.