(DAMASCUS, Syria) — A car bomb exploded early Thursday afternoon in Syria’s capital city of Damascus, killing at least 31 people, according to activists.
Video from the scene shows burning cars and several charred bodies, but the number of fatalities could not be immediately confirmed by ABC News.
Activists told ABC News that at least two other explosions elsewhere in Damascus followed the initial blast in the Mazraa district, at least one in the northwest neighborhood of Barzeh.
Syrian State TV reports that two mortars were fired at military headquarters, while the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that two mortars landed at the General Staff building in downtown Damascus. No casualties have been reported. State TV said the building was under construction and empty at the time of attack.
The first explosion took place near a security checkpoint on Baghdad Street in central Damascus, reportedly near the ruling Ba’ath Party headquarters.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that cars up to 900 feet away were badly damaged, suggesting a large blast radius.
Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency quoted a diplomat as saying the nearby Russian Embassy compound “has really been damaged. …The windows are shattered.”
Syria’s state news agency Sana reports the explosion “took place in a densely populated area near the crossroad of main streets, killed and injured a large number of civilians,” adding that students from a nearby school are among the casualties.
Earlier this week, mortar shells fell near President Bashar al Assad’s Tishreen Palace just north of Damascus and Thursday’s explosions are another sign that the physical battle is creeping into the capital city of 1.7 million after nearly two years.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Chandrika Narayan and Steve Almasy, CNN
Dave Gilbert, CNN
Rafael Romo and Emanuella Grinberg, CNN