Damaged cars are seen at the scene of an explosion in the heart of Damascus. (Youssef Badawia / EPA )
BEIRUT -- A powerful bomb exploded Tuesday in the center of Damascus, authorities said, causing dozens of casualties and marking the second consecutive day that a deadly explosion rocked the Syrian capital.
The official Syrian news agency reported that at least 13 people were killed and more than 70 were injured in Tuesday’s blast in the Marjeh district in historic central Damascus. The death toll was expected to rise.
Official media denounced the attack as a “hideous massacre” and blamed “terrorists,” the government’s term for rebels fighting to oust the government of President Bashar Assad.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest strike on the beleaguered capital.
The explosion came a day after an apparent car bomb targeted the convoy of Syrian Prime Minister Wael Halqi on a major street in the western Mezzeh district. The premier escaped unharmed, the government said, but reports indicated that at least six people were killed.
Rebels seeking to overthrow the government frequently use car bombs and have fired mortars into civilian areas of the capital, which is under tight military control.
The bombings this week come after a relative lull in attacks on the capital, which had restored some Damascus residents' flagging sense of confidence.
The capital is heavily guarded but the bombings demonstrate that assailants have the ability to penetrate security even in the heart of the city.
Images shown on state television Tuesday depicted a scene of bedlam as firefighters and ambulances converged on the bombing site even as a plume of smoke hovered over the area.
At least one bloodied victim, apparently dead, was seen lying on the street alongside a fire hose as rescue workers scrambled to put out fires and find survivors. Many cars on the busy street were set ablaze by the blast.
The explosions this week come as the Syrian military has been waging a major offensive against rebels based in the capital’s outskirts.
The United Nations said more than 70,000 people have died in the Syrian conflict, which ignited more than two years ago. All diplomatic efforts to end the fighting have failed.
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