At least 31 people have been killed and 45 others wounded after a pair of suicide bombers attacked the main judicial building in the Syrian capital of Damascus and a restaurant on the outskirts of town on Wednesday (March 15), state media reported.
The first suicide bomber targeted the Palace of Justice and detonated his explosive vest inside the main courthouse in central Damascus located near the famous and crowded Hamidiyeh market. Official state news agency SANA said another suicide explosion then struck a restaurant in the al-Rabweh area of the Syrian capital, Damascus to the west of the first attack, leaving an unknown number of casualties.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombings, the second wave of deadly attacks in the Syrian capital in just five days after twin bombings killed 74 on Saturday. An umbrella group of Syrian Islamist rebels group had claimed responsibility for the Iraqi Shiite pilgrims attack. Justice Minister Najem al-Ahmad told reporters the initial death toll was 31, mostly civilians. State news agency SANA cited the Damascus police as saying that there were 102 injured in the courthouse attack, and 28 injured in the restaurant.
The blast also delivered a message to the heart of the nation’s capital — that, six years to the day after the start of anti-government uprisings against President Bashar Assad, nowhere in Syria is safe. State television broadcast images from inside the courthouse, showing blood splattered across the ceiling and shattered glass in the building’s main hall, bodies lying amid pools of blood and smeared across the marble floor of the lobby, with a portrait of President Bashar al-Assad still intact and hanging on one of the walls.
The terror attacks came on the sixth anniversary of the Syrian civil war, which has left an estimated 500,000 people dead and forced 7.6 million to flee their homes. The conflict began in Syria in March 2011, when a popular uprising against President Bashar al Assad descended into a civil war. The fighting has also ravaged the country’s infrastructure and economy.
The explosion took place in the afternoon during busy hours in the court house, targeting government-controlled areas in Syria and spreading fear across Syria’s capital as the country’s civil war enters its seventh year. The attacker at the Justice Palace was wearing a military uniform and carrying a shotgun and hand-grenades, Damascus police chief Mohammad Kheir Ismail told state news agency Sana. The local police said they tried to stop the attacker from entering the premises, when the attacker arrived at the entrance to the building at around 1:20 p.m. local time (11.20am GMT), but failed.
Syria’s attorney general, Ahmad al-Sayed, who was in the building just a few yards away from the blast, told state TV that when the security guards attempted to disarm the man at a security checkpoint, he threw himself inside the palace and detonated his explosives.
Ahmad al-Sayed, said the timing of the explosion was planned during a crowded period of the day to kill the largest number of judges, lawyers and civilians, adding: “This is a dirty action as people who enter the palace are innocent.” “The attack came as a retaliation against the latest victories of the Syrian army and the political victories in Geneva and Astana,” Ahmad said, referring to recent peace talks in Switzerland and Kazakhstan.
Emergency workers and ambulance crews were rushed to the scene to transfer the wounded people to the nearby hospital.