Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Suicide pair attack Damascus square

A UN soldier looks through binoculars towards Syria from an observation point in the Golan Heights (AP)

At least 14 people were killed when two suicide bombers hit a square in central Damascus, activists and the state media reported.

Activists said one of the explosions took place inside a police station and many among the dead were police officers.

Syrian state TV quoted a security official as saying 14 people died in blasts caused by two "terrorist" suicide bombers near a police station in the bustling Marjeh Square in the heart of the capital. The official said another 31 were wounded.

The state-TV Ikhbariya TV station showed footage of broken shop facades and mangled cars in the central square as ambulance workers were seen carrying the wounded on stretchers. Marjeh Square was the scene of previous attacks earlier this year.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists on the ground in Syria, said 15 were killed in the explosions, one of which was caused by a man blowing himself up inside the police station in Marjeh square. The Observatory said the other blast happened outside the police station.

Both the media and activists originally reported two dead. Suicide attacks and car bombs have become common in Damascus.

Today's twin explosions in the capital are the first since government troops, backed by fighters from Lebanon's Shiite group Hezbollah, captured Qusair, a strategic town in the central province of Homs, the linchpin linking Damascus with regime strongholds on the Mediterranean coast.

Following the capture of Qusair, Syrian state-run media and the Hezbollah-owned Al-Manar TV have said the regime is preparing an offensive reportedly named Operation Northern Storm to recapture Aleppo. The regime was also believed to be advancing on the central city of Homs.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but car bombs and suicide attacks targeting Damascus and other cities that remain under government control have been claimed in the past by the al Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra - one of scores of rebel factions fighting the forces of President Bashar Assad.

On Saturday, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden car in the central city of Homs, tearing through an area largely populated by the regime's Alawite sect and killing seven people. Syria's conflict started with largely peaceful protests against Assad's regime in March 2011 but eventually turned into a civil war that has killed more than 80,000 people, according to the United Nations.

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