A powerful car bomb exploded very close to the ruling Baath Party offices and Russian Embassy in the central Mazraa neighborhood in Damascus Thursday, leading to the death of at least 53 people and wounding more than 200, many in critical condition, according to SANA news agency. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based anti-Assad group, put the number of dead at 59.
Another car bomb exploded across what previously was a relatively quiet capital city, according to antigovernment activists, who said 72 people, mainly civilians, died in the blasts. Some 13 people, incuding 10 security force members, were killed at checkpoints in the Barzeh district of northeast Damascus, the Syrian Observatory said. Insurgent fighters in the Damascus suburbs also reportedly lobbed mortar rounds into the affluent Abu Roumana district, apparently targeting the Syrian Defense Ministry.
Syrian state TV, which indicated that the explosion resulted from a suicide attack by a car, added that it targeted a populated area, a garage and a school, causing casualties among civilians, including school children.
Television footage showed at least four bodies strewn across the street after the blast, which state media blamed on what it described as a suicide bombing by "terrorists."
A correspondent for Syrian state television said he saw seven body bags with corpses in them at the scene. He said that he counted 17 burnt-out cars and another 40 that were destroyed or badly damaged by the force of the blast, which ripped a crater 1.5 meters deep into the road.
The pro-regime Al-Ekhbariya television channel said children were among the wounded, as the blast occurred near a school in the Mazraa district, but confirmed that there are no children among the dead, opposite to what the Syrian TV and SANA news claimed.
Opposition activists told reporters a car bomb struck a security checkpoint between the Baath Party central headquarters compound and the nearby Russian Embassy.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said initial reports suggested a building of the ruling Baath Party was targeted. It also said most of those killed were civilians, though the death toll included security forces.
Not long after the initial blast, Syrian activists as well as RT correspondents have confirmed that the Mazraa blast was followed by at least three other explosions near the Syrian Army Command and Air Force Intelligence in Damascus, sending a pall of black smoke billowing into the sky above the district.
The Observatory also reported that two car bombs exploded outside security centers in the northeastern district of Barzeh, but there were no details of casualties.
Ambulances sirens rang out, and machine gun fire was also heard in the area.
Meanwhile, Russia's state owned RIA Novosti news agency quoted a diplomat as saying the blast blew out windows at the Russian Embassy compound, which faces the road where the bomber struck, but no employees were wounded.
"The building has been really damaged. The windows are shattered," the embassy’s press attache Timur Pechatnikov said.
So far no armed group has claimed responsibility for these explosions, but previously Jabhat al-Nusra fighters have claimed responsibility for several of those attacks in Damascus.
Syrian TV stated that most of the dead were children. Of course, as mentioned by news agencies, the explosion occurred near the main center of the Baath Party. That means that the Mazraa school is at least 350 meters far from the explosion. Thus, there could have been casualties, but I exclude the possibility of dead children.
Today's explosion means that there is a lack of security in Damascus. Despite the numerous checkpoints and security restrictions within the capital, the commando nevertheless managed to reach the heart of the center of the Syrian capital which is heavily populated and heavily fortified due to its ties with Bashar Assad, containing a hospital, a mosque, a bus station and a school.
For sure the Syrian regime got the message that the FSA can reach any area in Damascus through the bombing of strategic areas in Damascus, besides the bombings of Barzeh, which the regime discreetly mention any casualties. I think that the reason for the secrecy is that the regime is trying to delude the Syrian people into thinking that he is still in control of the security in Syria.
The important point that should be noted is that when the regime admits that the victims in the area of the explosion were civilians, this means that they are militant members of the Baath party, plus the Shabiha forces do not wear army uniforms but they carry weapons. For your information, before the revolution against the regime, access to the areas where explosions occurred was difficult and nearly impossible, so how about nowadays?
I guess that the fall of Damascus by the FSA Champions has approached. Despite the international rejection to provide the FSA with weapons, they can still resist the regime of repression and terrorism, who ruled Syria for more than 40 years and killed thousands of innocent civilians during these years.
Alarabiya news with AFP. Feb.21.