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Damascus car bomb kills 53; 18 die in airstrike

By The Associated Press

This article was originally published February 21, 2013 at 7:45 a.m. Updated February 21, 2013 at 8:48 a.m.

this-photo-released-by-the-syrian-official-news-agency-sana-shows-first-responders-working-after-a-huge-explosion-that-shook-central-damascus-syria-on-thursday-feb-21-2013

This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows first responders working after a huge explosion that shook central Damascus, Syria, on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013.

— A car bomb near the Damascus headquarters of Syria’s ruling party killed 53 people Thursday, while a government airstrike on a rebel field hospital in southern Daraa left 18 dead, opposition activists and state media reported.

Syrian state TV said 53 people were killed and more than 200 wounded in a car bomb attack near the Baath party headquarters in central Damascus.

The bomb was one of at least three attacks in the heart of the city Thursday. 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 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.

Ambulances rushed to the scene of the blast, which shattered windows and sent up a huge cloud of smoke visible throughout much of the city, witnesses said.

The Britain-based activist group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 42 people were killed, most of them civilians. Some members of the Syrian security forces were also killed, it said.

Syrian state TV called it a “terrorist” attack by a suicide bomber. It said at least 35 people were killed and more than 200 wounded. The state news agency published photos of two dead bodies lying in the street.

There was no way to immediately reconcile the differing death tolls.

Read Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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