Car Bomb Explosion in Damascus Kills 13, State TV Says

A car bomb in central Damascus killed at least 13 people, Syria’s state television reported, a day after Prime Minister Wael al-Halaqi survived a bomb attack in the capital.

More than 70 people were wounded in the explosion in the Marjeh district, according to the report. The device detonated at the gate of the country’s old Interior Ministry building, the Coventry, England-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in an e-mailed statement.

Images broadcast on Al Arabiya television station showed damaged cars, a smoke-filled street and firefighters trying to extinguish flames.

Syrian rebels have targeted high-ranking government officials in their two-year fight to topple President Bashar al-Assad from power. The anti-Assad uprising has killed more than 70,000 people since it started in March 2011, according to United Nations estimates.

Today’s attack “is a good example of the escalation into Damascus,” Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, said by phone.

Yesterday’s attack was the first reported against a top Syrian official since July, when a bomb killed members of Assad’s military establishment leading the fight against the Syrian insurgency. They included Assad’s brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat and Defense Minister Dawoud Rajhah. The men remain the most senior officials to have been killed since the uprising began.

The opposition has tried to weaken Assad’s military supremacy by seizing air bases across the country. Earlier this week, clashes raged inside the Abu Zhuhoor base in northwestern Idlib province and the Kweiras military air base in Aleppo.

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