A car bomb exploded Thursday near Syria’s ruling-party headquarters in Damascus, killing at least 53 people and scattering mangled bodies among the blazing wreckage in one of the bloodiest days in the capital since the uprising began almost two years ago.
Elsewhere in the city, two other bombs struck intelligence offices, killing 22, and mortar rounds hit the army’s central command, activists said.
Recent rebel advances in the Damascus suburbs, combined with the bombings and three-straight days of mortar attacks, mark the most sustained challenge of the civil war for control of the seat of President Bashar Assad’s power.
Syrian state media said the car bombing near the Baath Party headquarters and the Russian Embassy was a suicide attack that killed 53 civilians and wounded more than 200, with children among the casualties. Anti-regime activists put the death toll at 61, which would make it the deadliest Damascus bombing of the revolt.
The violence has shattered the sense of normalcy that the Syrian regime has tried desperately to maintain in Damascus, a city that largely has been insulated from the bloodshed and destruction that has left other urban centers in ruins.
The recent bombings and mortar attacks suggest that instead of trying a major assault, rebel fighters are resorting to guerrilla tactics to loosen Assad’s grip on the heavily fortified capital.