Courthouse suicide bomber kills at least 32 in Damascus
DAMASCUS // At least 32 people were killed and more than 100 wounded when two suicide bombings hit the Syrian capital on Wednesday, one targeting a central courthouse and the other striking a restaurant in the west of the city.
It came as an air strike on the northwestern city of Idlib killed 21 people, including 14 children, a monitoring group said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the Damascus blasts, which came after twin bombings on Saturday killed 74 people.
In the first attack in the capital on Wednesday, a suicide bomber rushed inside the courthouse and blew himself up when police tried to prevent him from entering, state media reported.
A police source said 32 people were killed and 100 wounded.
“I heard a commotion and looked to my left and I saw a man in a military vest,” a man with a bandage over his eye told state television after the attack.
“He had his hands up and screamed ‘God is greatest’ and then the blast happened.”
“I fell to the ground and blood came out of my eye,” he added.
State television broadcast images from inside the courthouse, showing blood smeared across the marble floor of the lobby, with a portrait of president Bashar Al Assad still intact and hanging above.
Blood was also splattered across the ceiling, and bits of broken glass, wood and pieces of paper littered the floor.
“We were terrified because the sound of the explosion was enormous,” said a lawyer who was in the courthouse at the time of the attack. “We took refuge in the library which is on a higher floor.”
“It was a bloody scene.”
The second blast hit a restaurant in the city’s western Rabweh district less than two hours later, and injured 25 people, the police source said.
State media said the bomber had ducked into the restaurant after being chased by security services.
In the wake of the attacks, streets in the capital were deserted, with some roads blocked off by security services.
The air strike that killed 21 people in Idlib, meanwhile, was one of a number believed to have been carried out by Russian warplanes at dawn on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The Britain-based group, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria for its information, says it determines whose planes carry out raids according to type, location, flight patterns and munitions used.
Syrian government aircraft are also known to fly raids over Idlib, which is controlled by Islamist militants.
The Observatory said the strikes hit the city’s Al Qasur neighbourhood.
Two buildings at the scene – which had been housing people displaced from Aleppo province – were completely destroyed.
Local civil defence workers used bulldozers and their hands to clear large mounds of rubble.
Yahya Arjah, a member of the White Helmets group, said they had pulled two people alive from the rubble.
The Observatory said 14 of the dead were members of a single family, and that among those killed were people displaced from the northern part of Aleppo province, which neighbours Idlib province.
More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began six years ago with anti-government protests.
Russia began a military intervention in the country in September 2015, and in the past has dismissed allegations of civilian deaths in its strikes.
* Agence France-Presse
Updated: March 15, 2017 04:00 AM