Bus bombs kill 14 people in deadliest attack for years in Damascus

Two bombs attached to a bus carrying Syrian troops exploded in Damascus during the morning rush hour yesterday, killing 14 people in one of the deadliest attacks in the capital in years.

he explosions, which also left several wounded, happened yesterday at a busy junction, near a main bus transfer point where commuters and schoolchildren typically converge.

After the blasts, Syrian state television showed footage of smoke rising from a charred bus as soldiers hosed down the vehicle and onlookers flocked to a nearby bridge to watch.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but several insurgent and jihadist groups that seek to overthrow Assad are active in Syria.

Separately, rescue workers reported 10 people were killed yesterday, including four children and a woman in government shelling of Ariha, a town in the last rebel enclave in the country’s north-west.

The UN deputy regional humanitarian coordinator Mark Cutts described as “shocking” the reports about the shelling that hit a market and roads near schools as students were heading to classes.

In addition to the four children killed, their teacher also died, according to UNICEF.

“Today’s violence is yet another reminder that the war in Syria has not come to an end,” the UN children’s agency said.

“Civilians, among them many children, keep bearing the brunt of a brutal decade-long conflict. Attacks on civilians including children are a violation of international humanitarian law.”

The attack was one of the most violent in the area since a March 2020 truce in the northwest negotiated by Turkey and Russia — allies of the opposition and Syrian government, respectively.  The truce has been repeatedly violated, and government forces often vow to take territories still out of their control.

In the central city of Hama, meanwhile, an explosion at an arms depot left six pro-government fighters dead, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor.

The pro-government Sham FM radio station also reported that six fighters were killed in a depot explosion but did not give a location.

While fighting still rages in the northwest, Assad’s forces now control much of Syria after military support from his allies Russia and Iran helped tip the balance of power in his favour. US and Turkish troops, meanwhile, are deployed in part’s of the country’s north.

In recent years, attacks such as yesterday’s have been rare in Damascus.

Bombings in the capital had almost ceased since President Bashar Assad’s troops pushed opposition fighters from the capital’s suburbs in 2018 during the Syrian government’s decade-long nationwide conflict with insurgents.

One of the last major explosions to take place there was in 2017 — when suicide bombers hit a judicial office building and a restaurant, killing nearly 60 people. Those attacks were claimed by Islamic State group militants.

The extremist organisation has not held territory in Syria since 2019, but it continues to represent a threat with sleeper cells, mostly hiding in Syria’s expansive desert.

State media initially described the Damascus attack as a roadside bombing.

But they later quoted an unnamed military official as saying that bombs were attached to the vehicle’s exterior. A third bomb fell from the bus and was dismantled by troops after the two initial explosions, the official said.

“It is a cowardly act,” Damascus police commander Major General Hussein Jumaa told state TV. He said a police force had cordoned off the area immediately and made sure there were no more bombs.

Major General Jumaa said 14 people were killed, including one person who was initially listed as wounded but later died.

It was not immediately clear if all the dead were bus passengers.

The military official said the bombs went off shortly before 7am. Over an hour later, workers had cleared the scene, and the burnt-out bus was removed.

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