Twin blasts hit Damascus

Syrian security officers inspect the wreckage of a car close to where an explosion went off in the upscale Mazze neighborhood of Damascus.
Syrian security officers inspect the wreckage of a car close to where an explosion went off in the upscale Mazze neighborhood of Damascus. (SANA / Associated Press)

At least five police officers died in the first bombing. Until July, the Syrian capital had been relatively untouched by war.

Posted: September 08, 2012

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Two booby-trapped vehicles exploded within hours of each other Friday in Syria's once-impregnable capital of Damascus, killing at least five police officers as rebels increasingly target President Bashar al-Assad's seat of power.

With the civil war intensifying, the head of the Red Cross warned after meeting with Assad that the situation in the country was "rapidly deteriorating." Elsewhere in Damascus, shells struck a Palestinian refugee camp, killing 10 people, state media said.

The uprising began in March 2011, when protests calling for political change were met by a violent government crackdown by government troops. Many in the opposition took up arms, and activists say more than 23,000 people have been killed. The government says more than 4,000 security officers are among the dead.

Damascus was relatively quiet until July, when rebels launched a bold attack, capturing several neighborhoods and setting off a bomb that killed four high-ranking security officials, including the defense minister and Assad's brother-in-law.

Since then, the regime has succeeded in largely quelling a rebel offensive in the capital, but has struggled to contain an opposition push into the northern city of Aleppo, the country's commercial hub.

Friday's first blast in Damascus killed five officers when a motorcycle packed with explosives blew up across the street from a mosque in the Rukneddine neighborhood, state TV said. An Associated Press reporter at the scene said the bomb damaged a nearby medical clinic, staining its walls and the pavement with blood.

There were no casualties in the second blast, a car bomb that went off about two hours later in the upscale Mazze neighborhood near the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Justice, which are about 330 feet apart. Friday is the weekend in Syria, and institutions are usually closed.

State TV blamed terrorists, the term the regime uses to describe the rebels. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks.

The blasts came five days after two bombs exploded near the offices of the military's joint chiefs of staff in Damascus, slightly wounding four officers.

Peter Maurer, the new president of the International Committee of the Red Cross who had just returned from a three-day trip to Syria, said he was shocked by the "immense destruction."

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