(DAMASCUS, Syria) — What was believed to be an enormous car bomb explosion on Thursday left dozens dead and more than 235 people wounded in Syria’s capital of Damascus.
Most of those killed, according to Syria’s official news agency, were civilians, including women and children. As of late Thursday, the death toll has climbed to 53 and was expected to go higher.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred near the office of the ruling Baath Party and not far from the Russian embassy.
Suspicion fell on rebel forces that have ratcheted up their assaults in Damascus as their two-year objective to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad has only been met with an escalation of violence.
Some blamed the Free Syrian Army for the blast at a checkpoint but the group issued a swift denial. Later, Syria’s foreign ministry accused armed groups affiliated with al-Qaeda of plotting the attack.
Last May, an explosion targeting a military intelligence complex in Damascus left 55 dead and over 300 wounded.
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Michael Pearson and Steve Almasy, CNN
Steve Visser and Masoud Popalzai, CNN