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Suicide bombers target central Damascus, killing at least 14

June 11, 2013|By Alexandra Sandels and Jeffrey Fleishman
  • Men inspect a damaged shop at the scene of two explosions in Damascus, Syria.
Men inspect a damaged shop at the scene of two explosions in Damascus, Syria. (SANA / Associated Press )

BEIRUT -- A twin suicide bombing targeted a square in central Damascus on Tuesday morning, killing at least 14 people and injuring more than 30 others, Syrian state media reported.

The official Syrian news agency said "two terrorist suicidal bombings" had struck near the police department headquarters close to Marjeh Square, causing the fatalities, casualties and extensive damage. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Images from state-run media outlets showed blood-streaked pavement and blown-out shop fronts. The video also showed people milling around the debris and trying to remove rubble from stores and sidewalks.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least one of the explosions was detonated by a man who blew himself up inside the police station.

Damascus has recently been hit by a series of bombings. Tuesday’s blasts came as reports suggested that the Syrian government was preparing an assault to oust rebels from the northern city of Aleppo.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has gained momentum against disparate rebel factions, many of which are made up of Islamist extremists with ties to Al Qaeda. The Damascus bombing comes a week after government soldiers backed by Shiite Hezbollah militants from neighboring Lebanon retook the strategic city of Qusair after three weeks of heavy fighting.

Hezbollah’s entrenchment in the two-year civil war, which has killed more than 80,000 people, according to a United Nations count, has led to fears among neighboring countries that sectarian and religious tensions will spill over Syria's borders.

Hezbollah, a proxy of Iran, relies on Syria as a channel for aid and arms. Its involvement on the side of Assad has angered Sunni Muslim countries, especially Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which have sent money and weapons to the rebels.

A statement Tuesday by the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Gulf Arab states, reflected growing exasperation with Hezbollah, which claims it is involved in the conflict to prevent Sunni extremists from entering Lebanon.

"As GCC strongly condemns the blatant interference of Lebanese Hezbollah in the Syrian crisis and its consequent killings of innocent civilians, it considers that Hezbollah’s participation in shedding the blood of the brotherly Syrian people reveals the nature of this party and its real objectives, which surpassed the borders of Lebanon and Arab homeland."

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jeffrey.fleishman@latimes.com

Special correspondent Sandels reported from Beirut, and Times staff writer Fleishman reported from Cairo.

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