Middle East

Double blast kills at least 14 in Damascus

A handout image released by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on June 11, 2013, shows Syrians inspecting the damage in central Damascus following two explosions. (AFP PHOTO / HO / SANA)

DAMASCUS: Suspected twin suicide bombers targeted a Damascus police station Tuesday killing at least 14 people, as the Syrian army launched multiple attacks on rebel positions in the northern province of Aleppo. The blasts wounded more than 30 people, state media and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activist group said.

They caused widespread damage in the capital’s central Marjeh neighborhood, with state television broadcasting images of blood and broken glass on the pavement near the scene.

“The number of casualties after a twin suicide attack in Marjeh Square has risen to 14 dead and 31 injured,” said the channel. “The two suicide explosions took place near a police station.”

The Observatory put the death toll at 15. It said one of the blasts “was caused by a suicide bomb attacker who blew himself up inside the police station.”

“A second explosion took place just outside the police station,” the Britain-based group said, without elaborating on the nature of that blast.

“The number of casualties is expected to rise because several of the wounded are in critical condition,” added the Observatory, which relies on a network of activists, doctors and lawyers in Syria for its reports.

The Syrian Cabinet denounced the attack, saying “armed terrorist groups and those behind them have failed completely because of the victories achieved by our brave army,” state news agency SANA reported.

Meanwhile, in Aleppo province, the army launched multiple attacks on rebel positions, including insurgent-held areas of the key Menagh military airbase, the Observatory said.

“Parts of Menagh military air base were shelled by regime forces ... Rebels are in control of large swathes of the airbase,” the Observatory said.

A military source told AFP heavy clashes were raging at the base for a third day, but denied any part of the airport was under rebel control.

He said the fighting was not part of a broader campaign that the regime has pledged to launch to retake Aleppo city – large parts of which are in rebel hands – and other parts of the province. But other areas of Aleppo were also under fire, two days after pro-regime media said an army campaign in the province would begin within “hours or days.”

Regime forces shelled the opposition-controlled villages of Deir Hafer and Al-Bab and hit the insurgent stronghold of Marea with rockets, the Observatory said. There were unconfirmed reports of a ground-to-ground missile strike in Aleppo province, it added.

The regime has pledged to focus its attention on Aleppo after winning a strategic victory by retaking the town of Qusair in the central province of Homs. Backed by fighters from Hezbollah – a key Syrian regime ally – the army seized the town near the Lebanese border last week.

The militia’s role has raised fears about the growing regionalization of the conflict in Syria, which began in March 2011.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 12, 2013, on page 8.




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