Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 30 October 2014

Powerful explosion rocks Damascus

President Bashar Assad

A strong explosion has rocked the Syrian capital Damascus, sending black smoke billowing into the sky.

The explosion was in the car park at the Palace of Justice, a compound that houses several courts, said state TV.

At least three people were wounded and around 20 cars were damaged. A reporter at the scene said some cars were charred and many had their windshields blown out.

The blast happened at 1 pm near the capital's Hamidiyeh Market, an area crowded with families stocking up on food and other supplies for the weekend, which begins on Friday in Syria.

Syria has been hit by a wave of massive explosions in recent months, killing dozens of people. Most of the explosions targeted the security agencies of President Bashar Assad, who is fighting to end a 15-month-old uprising against his rule.

Last month, an explosion targeted a military intelligence compound south of Damascus killing 55 people. It was Syria's deadliest blast.

Much of the violence that has gripped Syria since the uprising began has been sanctioned by the government to crush dissent.

But rebel fighters are launching increasingly deadly attacks on regime targets, and several massive suicide attacks this year suggest al Qaida or other extremists are joining the fray.

:: Three Syrian attack helicopters which have been refurbished in Russia will be sent back to Syria, Russian defence officials have reportedly said.

Last week, a cargo ship carrying the helicopters to Syria was forced to turn back after its British insurer removed coverage for the vessel. Alexander Fomin, the Russian defence official, told Ria Novosti news agency Moscow plans to deliver the helicopters, without specifying how or when.

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