Huge explosion hits the Old City of Damascus killing at least 13 as Syrian unrest continues

 

A taxi rigged with explosives has blown up outside a police station in the Syrian capital, killing at least 13 people.

The bombing occurred as the UN envoy to the nation's crisis was visiting Damascus to push his call for a ceasefire in talks with president Bashar Assad.

The SANA state news agency said 29 people were also wounded in the blast in the Bab Touma neighbourhood, a popular shopping district largely inhabited by Syria's Christian minority.

Once largely immune to the violence that has swept over Syria since the anti-Assad revolt began in March 2011, Damascus has become a frequent target of bombings in recent months.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, but Islamist groups fighting alongside the rebels have sometimes claimed responsibility for bomb attacks against security targets in the capital.

Vegetable vendor Mohammad Hanbali, 27, said several people wounded in the blast were lying on the street.

"It's a cowardly act, carried out by terrorists," said Mr Hanbali, who was hit by a piece of shrapnel in the left leg.

SANA put the death toll at 13, while the anti-regime Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 10 people were killed in the blast.

In another part of capital, UN and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met Assad as part of his push for a ceasefire between rebels and government forces for the four-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which begins October 26.

Mr Brahimi told reporters following a closed-door meeting that he met earlier with Syrian opposition groups inside and outside the country to discuss his truce plan. He said he received "promises" but not a "commitment" from them to honour the ceasefire.

He noted that he "found an overwhelming response" from Assad's opponents to his ceasefire plan and that "all of them have said that it's a good idea which they support".

He declined to reveal Assad's response to his plan, viewed as a preliminary step toward a larger deal.

But SANA said Assad assured Mr Brahimi that he supported his effort, but did not say whether he committed to a truce.

"The president said he is open to any sincere effort to find a political solution to the crisis on the basis of respecting the Syrian sovereignty and rejecting foreign interference," SANA said.

It said Assad also stressed that a political solution must be "based on the principle of halting terrorism, a commitment from the countries involved in supporting, arming and harbouring terrorists in Syria to stop doing such acts".

Syrian authorities blame the anti-government uprising that began in March last year on a foreign conspiracy and accuse Saudi Arabia and Qatar, along with the US, other Western countries and Turkey, of funding, training and arming the rebels, whom they describe as "terrorists".

For months, Turkey served as headquarters for the leaders of the ragtag Free Syrian Army before the rebel group shifted its command to Syria.

Turkey also hosts many meetings of the Syrian National Council opposition group. Relations between Turkey and Syria, once close, have been deteriorating since the crisis began last year and Ankara became one of Assad's harshest critics.

Mr Brahimi said he was "hopeful that the eid in Syria will be calm if not happy." He said that he will return to Syria after the holiday. "If we find that this calm is actually achieved during the Eid and continued, we will try to build on it," he added.

"The Syrian people expect more than a truce for a few days and it is their right, but all we can promise is that we will work hard to achieve their aspirations," he said.

Mr Brahimi arrived in Damascus after a tour of Middle East capitals to drum up support for the ceasefire. A range of countries including Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Germany have backed the idea.

Syrian government forces and rebels have both agreed in the past to internationally brokered ceasefires only to then promptly violate them, and there is little indication that either is willing to stop fighting now.

Elsewhere, in the northern city of Aleppo, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden car in front of the French-Syrian Hospital at al-Zohour Street, causing material damage, but no casualties, SANA said. It said the blast wounded several passers-by, but did not disclose their number.

Anti-regime activists say more than 33,000 people have been killed since the anti-Assad revolt started.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future