Second bomb attack in days hits Damascus, no casualties
Damascus (AFP) –
A bomb attack hit near the Russian embassy in the Syrian capital Thursday but caused no casualties, in the second such blast in Damascus in less than a week.
Eight years into Syria's devastating civil war, President Bashar al-Assad's regime is in control of almost two-thirds of the country.
Until last week, Damascus had enjoyed more than a year of respite from planted explosives.
On Thursday, state news agency SANA reported "a terrorist bombing in the Adawi area" in the northeast of the capital.
An explosive device was planted in a car, it said, "causing material damage but no casualties".
Images on state media showed the mangled remains of a sky blue car.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said the blast hit near the embassy of key government ally Russia, lightly wounding four people.
The explosion came after another in Damascus on Sunday, which the Observatory said hit "near a security branch in the south of the city".
The monitoring group reported "some people killed and injured" in that attack, though state media said there were no victims.
- Three explosions -
Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said Sunday's explosion appeared to be the first such blast in Damascus since a car bomb more than a year ago that caused no casualties.
Including Thursday's attack, three explosions have rocked regime-held areas in less than a week.
On Tuesday, a car bomb also killed one in the regime's coastal stronghold of Latakia, according to state media.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for any of these three attacks.
Syria's civil war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.
It has since spiralled into a complex conflict involving jihadists and world powers.
With key military backing from Russia since 2015, President Bashar al-Assad's forces have retaken large parts of Syria from rebels and jihadists.
The Syrian regime in May retook a final scrap of territory held by the Islamic State group in southern Damascus, cementing total control over the capital for the first time in six years.
Still outside the regime's reach are a jihadist bastion in northwest Syria, northern patches held by Turkey-allied rebels, and a northeastern swathe held by Kurdish-led forces fighting IS.
- IS remnants -
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces are fighting to expel the last IS fighters from scraps of territory in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border.
Backed by the air strikes of the US-led coalition, the SDF have since September been whittling away at a pocket of territory on the eastern banks of the Euphrates River in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor.
On Thursday, both sides clashed on the outskirts of the village of Baghouz after the SDF overran it the previous day, the Observatory said.
Some 1,000 people -- including 300 alleged IS fighters -- fled into SDF-controlled areas since early morning, it said.
"The IS fighters are giving themselves up as part of a deal with the SDF, under which trucks enter to ferry them out," Abdel Rahman said.
"Fighting is ongoing in fields outside Baghouz with IS members who refuse to leave," he said.
IS overran large swathes of Syria and neighbouring Iraq in 2014, declaring a "caliphate" there, but they have since lost almost all of it to various offensives.
The jihadists have retained a presence in the vast Badia desert stretching across the country, and have continued to claim attacks in SDF-held territory and abroad.
But they did not claim any of the three latest blasts in regime-held territory on any of their usual channels.
© 2019 AFP