A suicide car bomb exploded in the main business district of Damascus on Monday, killing at least 15 people, setting cars ablaze and damaging buildings, according to state television.
A Damascus resident who described the blast as the biggest she had heard in the capital during the two-year-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad said large plumes of black smoke were rising from the Sabaa Bahrat district.
State television said the explosion had occurred near a school in Sabaa Bahrat, a heavily populated area that also houses the Central Bank and the Finance Ministry. It said 53 people were wounded.
“Terrorists detonate car bomb between Sabaa Bahrat square and Shahbander Street,” state television reported, adding preliminary information suggested the explosion was a suicide attack.
An AFP correspondent said the explosion caused extensive damage and intense gunfire could be heard shortly afterwards. The force of the blast blew out the windows of the AFP bureau in Damascus, but no staff were hurt.
State television said shots had been fired in the air to clear a path for ambulances after the explosion.
It showed footage of seven bodies in the street, including at least two charred corpses in the wreckage of an overturned bus. The fire brigade was dousing flames from cars crushed by the blast. Other vehicles were still on fire, lined up in what appeared to be a car park.
Men carried away a woman on a stretcher whose face was covered in blood. Panic-stricken women in long black dresses and headscarves ran towards the scene. State television showed some bandaged children in school uniform. (Reuters, AFP)