The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

February 21, 2013

Damascus car bomb kills 35, 18 die in airstrike



DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — A car bomb near the Damascus headquarters of Syria's ruling party killed 35 people on Thursday, while a government airstrike on a rebel field hospital in southern Daraa left 18 dead, opposition activists and state media reported.

The Damascus car bomb was one of at least three attacks in the heart of the city. A second blast shook another neighborhood and mortar rounds exploded near the Syrian Army General Command.

It was the third day of attacks on the center of Damascus.

For months, rebels have been trying to bring their fight to topple President Bashar Assad into the center of the capital, but have managed little more than brief incursions and frequent skirmishes in outlying neighborhoods.

The latest bombings and the recent mortar attacks suggest they may be shifting to guerrilla tactics to destabilize the seat of Assad's power.

The most deadly attack struck a main street on the edge of the capital's central Mazraa neighborhood, near the headquarters of Assad's Baath party and the Russian Embassy, as well as a mosque, a hospital and a school.

TV footage of the blast site showed firemen dousing a flaming car with hoses and lifeless and dismembered bodies blown into the grass of a nearby park.

Witnesses at the scene said a car had exploded at a security checkpoint between the Russian Embassy and the central headquarters of the ruling party.

"It was huge. Everything in the shop turned upside down," one local resident said. He said three of his employees were injured by flying glass that killed a young girl who was walking by when the blast hit.

"I pulled her inside the shop but she was almost gone. We couldn't save her. She was hit in the stomach and head," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution for speaking with foreign media.

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