Damascus bomb kills 13 as US pressures Russia
DAMASCUS / WASHINGTON
A handout picture released by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on April 30, 2013, shows smoke billowing from the site believed to be of a blast in the Marjeh district of Damascus. AFP PhotoA bomb killed 13 people in central Damascus April 30, state television said as U.S. President Barack Obama stepped up pressure on Russia over Syria, telling President Vladimir Putin of his concern about the alleged use of chemical weapons.
“The number of casualties in the cowardly terrorist blast targeting the commercial and historic center of Damascus in the Marjeh district rose to 13 martyrs and more than 70 injured,” state television reported, citing the Interior Ministry.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported “14 dead, including nine civilians and five members of the security forces, in a car bomb attack near the old Interior Ministry headquarters.” The toll could rise further because a number of the wounded were in critical condition, the monitoring group said.
The target of the attack was not immediately clear. Footage showed the former Interior Ministry building near the site of the blast on one of the capital’s main roads.
Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar said the bombing was a “bankrupt response” to recent gains by the Syrian army against rebels in the areas surrounding the city center.
Al-Shaar, who was wounded by a car bomb blast in December, said the United States, the West and Israel were directing the group that carried out the bombing.
Concerned over the reported use of chemical weapons by Damascus, President Barack Obama stepped up pressure on Russia over Syria on April 29, telling President Vladimir Putin of his concern regarding the matter.
The call came with Obama facing increasing political heat himself, after the White House said last week that it believed there was growing evidence that Syrian forces had used chemical weapons in the civil war.
“President Obama and President Putin reviewed the situation in Syria, with President Obama underscoring concern over Syrian chemical weapons,” a White House statement said.
Obama is under pressure because last year he said the use or movement of chemical weapons by President Bashar al-Assad’s embattled forces would cross a U.S. “red line.”
Obama and Putin agreed to stay in touch on Syria and tasked Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with working together on the issue.
Meanwhile, a Turkish hospital near the border with Syria took measures upon a report that they would receive several Syrians injured by chemical weapons late yesterday, although no sign of chemical weapons was found in the patients, according to an official.
Nine Syrians admitted at a hospital in Hatay’s Reyhanlı district yesterday evening were checked for effects of chemical weapons after officials received information on the possible use of chemicals, a local official who wanted to remain anonymous told the Hürriyet Daily News today.
A seriously wounded man was sent to another hospital after initial treatment. An elderly woman who came from the scene had died of a heart attack. Another woman, nine months pregnant, came with symptoms of nausea, raising fears that chemical weapons had been used. Six others who accompanied the patients were checked for effects of chemical weapons by trained medical personnel, but an official said no sign of chemical weapons had been detected in any of the nine.
National Medical Rescue Team (UMKE) members working at the hospital took the patients from the Cilvegözü border gate with Syria to the hospital. The hospital refused to treat any other patients until they completed their work on the Syrian patients.