At least 14 people have been killed and another three wounded after roadside bombs blew up a military bus in the Syrian capital of Damascus today.
Two bombs detonated underneath a busy bridge in the Syrian capital during Wednesday morning rush hour, destroying the bus as it passed underneath.
A third bomb was subsequently found nearby and defused by military engineers before it could explode, Syria‘s state news agency said.
At least 14 people have been killed and another three wounded after two roadside bombs destroyed a military bus in central Damascus earlier today
The bombs exploded as the bus was passing underneath the President’s Bridge in central Damascus early on Wednesday, leaving the vehicle completely burned out
The military initially said the bombs were planted on the highway, but later said it believed they were attached to the bus itself
A third bomb found by army engineers beside the road after the explosion is thought to have originally been attached to the bus, but fell off before it exploded
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Such bombings have become rare in Damascus since the government drove ISIS out of the city in 2018.
The attack is notable because it occurred in the very centre of Damascus, underneath the President’s Bridge in an area where buses gather before departing for different destinations around the country.
The bridge is a short distance from Syria’s parliament building, government offices, and the Four Seasons hotel where many UN officials in the country are based.
Separately, rescue workers reported 10 people were killed, including four children and a woman, in government shelling of a town in the last rebel enclave in the country’s northwest.
The U.N. Deputy Regional Humanitarian Coordinator Mark Cutts described as ‘shocking’ the reports of the shelling that hit a market and roads near schools as students were heading to classes.
That was one of the most violent attacks 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.
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 favor. U.S. and Turkish troops, meanwhile, are deployed in part’s of the country’s north.
Syrian government forces rushed to the scene where the third bomb was defused and the bus debris cleared from the roadside (pictured)
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Such bombings have become rare in Damascus since the government retook full control of the city from ISIS in 2018
Government troops clear away the remains of the destroyed bus, as the hunt begins for the attackers. Several terror groups still operate in Syria, including ISIS
One of the last major explosions to take place in Damascus was in 2017 – when suicide bombers hit a judicial office building and a restaurant, killing nearly 60 people. The attacks were claimed by ISIS.
The extremist organization 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 Syrian 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 typical for the government to release information using anonymous sources in state media.
‘It is a cowardly act,’ Damascus police commander Maj. Gen. Hussein Jumaa told state TV, adding that a police force had cordoned off the area immediately and made sure there were no more bombs.
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 7 a.m.
Syrian government workers clean debris from the side of the road after the bombing, in front of a poster of President Assad
Terror attacks have become uncommon in Damascus since Assad retook control of the city from ISIS in 2018, though terror groups still operate in Syria
Syrian municipal workers clean the site of an attack on an army bus, that was targeted with explosive devices, in the Syrian capital Damascus
Over an hour later, workers had cleared the scene, and the burnt-out bus was removed.
Wednesday’s shelling in the northwest hit the town of Ariha, in Idlib province, which is mostly controlled by rebel groups.
The Syrian Civil Defense, also known as White Helmets, said aside from the 10 killed, 20 more were wounded when dozens of shells landed in the town.
Rescuers said they were still searching through the wreckage for survivors.
Multiple terror groups operate in Syria, including ISIS and Tahrir al-Sham which has links to al-Qaeda but officially denies being a part of it.
Roadside bombings carried out in the northern city of Afrin earlier this year were blamed on YPG/PKK groups, which are largely comprised of Kurdish fighters who were supported by western forces during the country’s civil war.
Turkey now administers security in parts of northern Syria where they operate, and considers them to be a terrorist group.
President Bashar Assad’s forces now control much of Syria after military help from his allies Russia and Iran helped tip the balance of power in his favor.
Syria’s conflict that began in March 2011 has left more than 350,000 people dead and displaced half the country’s population, including five million who are refugees abroad.
In August, Syria’s state media said a short circuit triggered an explosion in the gas tank of a bus carrying soldiers, killing one and wounding three.