Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halaqi survived a bomb explosion that killed at least six people as his convoy traveled through Damascus, state television said.
At least 15 people were wounded in the blast in the capital’s Mazzeh district, the television station’s website said. The dead included a bodyguard, Rami Abdurrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said by phone, while a second bodyguard and a driver were injured. Five civilians also died in the blast, the Coventry, England-based Observatory said on its Facebook page, citing unidentified medical sources.
The attack on such a high-ranking figure, while significant, does not signal any change in Syria’s strategic stalemate, said Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Middle East Center in Beirut.
“The situation in the country is for the moment moving into kind of semi-static zones of influence,” Salem said in a phone interview. “Nobody seems to be on the imminent brink of sweeping the country.”
The blast was the first reported attack against a top Syrian official since July, when a bomb killed members of Assad’s top military establishment leading the fight against the Syrian insurgency. They included Assad’s brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, Defense Minister Dawoud Rajhah and the vice president’s military adviser, Hasan Turkmani. The men remain the most senior officials to be killed since the uprising started in March 2011.
Images posted by the state-run SANA news agency showed onlookers close to mangled cars as firefighters doused flames.
Al-Halaqi later convened a ministerial meeting on economic developments. Television pictures showed him apparently unharmed as he spoke to reporters about granting licenses for pharmaceutical factories. The premier later denounced the attack and said it signaled the frustration of “terrorist groups” at the “heroic” victories of the Syrian army, SANA said.
Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said the blast was “a clear indication of the choice of some to reject a political solution” to Syria’s crisis, according to SANA.
The anti-Assad uprising has killed more than 70,000 people, according to United Nations estimates.
Assad appointed Halaqi as prime minister in August to replace Riad Hijab, who had defected to Jordan a few days earlier.