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25 Feb, 2013 16:42

Car blast rocks central Damascus, casualties reported

Car blast rocks central Damascus, casualties reported

A suicide bomber has detonated a vehicle in the Al-Qabun area of Damascus, state media reports. Several people have been killed and injured according to preliminary reports.

A powerful explosion shook the Syrian capital on Monday evening. SANA news agency reported that the blast happened near the office of al-Khumasia company and caused a number of casualties and substantial material damage. The explosion was reportedly followed by a fierce gunfight between rebels and security forces.

According to other reports the explosion happened after the vehicle approached a security checkpoint in al-Qaboun. Unconfirmed reports on Twitter suggested that the rebels launched simultaneous attacks in the Jobar and Barzeh neighborhoods, with gunfire also reported in these areas.

So far there was no official confirmation of the death toll of this latest terror attack in Damascus. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that at least five Syrian Army soldiers were killed and several others injured by the blast.

Last week a series of terror attacks swept Syria’s capital. The deadliest, a car blast, shook a square where pro-government rallies are usually staged, claiming over 50 lives and injuring over 200 people.

The new outbreak of violence comes the same day as the Syrian government announced its readiness for negotiations with the opposition, including armed groups.

“We are ready for dialogue with anyone who wants dialogue, including those who are fighting with arms in their hands, because we are confident that reforms cannot be carried out through bloodshed, but through dialogue,” Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said ahead of the talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.

The armed opposition on the ground however is refusing to talk until President Assad steps down and leaders of the army and security forces are put on trial.

"We will not go [into talks] unless these demands are realized," Brigadier Selim Idris, head of a military command, told Al Arabiya Television.