2 explosions rock Syrian capital


DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Two massive explosions rocked the heart of the Syrian capital near the army and air force command headquarters on Wednesday, and a fire broke out in the area, Syria's official news agency reported.

Information Minister Omran Zoubi said the blasts were caused by two roadside bombs, adding that one of them may have been placed inside the grounds of the army command headquarters. He said the damage was material.

The explosions went off minutes apart just before 7 a.m. local time (0400 GMT) near the landmark Omayyad square, shattering the windows of nearby buildings, and were heard several kilometers (miles) away.

Columns of thick black smoke covered the Syrian capital and ambulances were rushed to the site of the explosions as police sealed off the area to traffic.

The Syrian capital has been hit by a series of car bombs and roadside bombings in the past few months, as the uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime intensified

Syria's unrest began in March 2011 when protests calling for political change met a violent government crackdown. Many in the opposition have since taken up arms as the conflict has morphed into a civil war that activists say has killed nearly 30,000 people.

On July 18, rebels penetrated the heart of Syria's power elite, detonating a bomb inside a high-level crisis meeting in Damascus that killed three top regime officials, including Assad's brother-in-law and the defense minister.

The explosions Wednesday were followed by gunfire, witnesses said, suggesting security forces clashed with gunmen in the high security area.