A Free Syrian Army officer has told Al Arabiya his resistance group was responsible for an attack on government headquarters in Damascus on Wednesday.
Lieutenant Abu al-Nour said the headquarters had been completely destroyed while some 150 people were inside, and that none so far had exited the building.
He said the bombing targeted morning meetings of high-ranking lieutenants, which take place at around 8:05 everyday during Ramadan, and claimed the headquarters stored weapons used by the Assad regime.
Eight improvised explosive devices were used to destroy the building, he added.
Maher Nuwaimi, head of the FSA coordination command in Syria, told AFP that “the FSA operation targeted a military command office with explosives designed to go off at a meeting of army officers and members of the shabiha (pro-government militia) which decides on daily operations in Damascus.”
Clashes ensued after the bombing hit the parking area of Syrian government general staff headquarter in Damascus, reported Syrian TV.
Later in the afternoon, the opposition group, Local Coordination Committees, reported clashes between FSA and the Syrian regime’s forces behind the Iranian embassy in Damascus.
The TV said the explosion took place near a parking lot used by the army command, which is about 300 meters (yards) away. None of the wounded were believed to be U.N. staff.
But according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene, the blast had gone off inside a different parking lot belonging to a military compound near the Dama Rose Hotel, popular with the U.N. observers in Syria.
A witness said the explosion had gone off at around 8.30 a.m. (0530 GMT) and damaged a building opposite the Dama Rose Hotel, where the U.N. monitors were staying, but appeared not to have damaged the hotel itself.
Syrian TV said one of the bombs was attached to a gas canister in central Damascus. An opposition activist in the capital saw smoke rising from the scene and ambulances arriving to treat the wounded.
The hotel was slightly damaged in the blast, with some of its windows shattered. A Labor Union building across from the hotel was also damaged and black smoke was seen billowing into the sky before the fire was extinguished.
Al Arabiya correspondent said the attacks took place in a fortified part of the city and it had been difficult for Al Arabiya to gain access to the area to cover events surrounding the U.N. observers due to tight security.
Deputy Syrian foreign minister Faisal Mikdad said none of the U.N. observers had been wounded.
“This was a criminal act aimed at distorting Syria’s image,” Syrian TV quoted Mikdad as saying.
Activists say more than 20,000 people have been killed since then and the conflict has morphed into a full-out civil war.
“Those who carry out such terrorist attacks are destroying their country in order to get some pounds,” shouted Ali Mohammed Ismail, 48, who said he happened to be in the area when the explosion occurred.