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Thursday, January 19, 2017
- Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi has survived a bomb attack that targeted his convoy in central Damascus, Syrian state media report.
“The terrorist explosion in al-Mazzeh was an attempt to target the convoy of the prime minister. Doctor Wael al-Halqi is well and not hurt at all,” state television said on Monday.
Casualties have been reported.
State television showed footage of heavily damaged cars and debris in the area of the blast as firefighters fought to extinguish a large blaze caused by the explosion.
Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut in neighbouring Lebanon, said the attack on the prime minister’s convoy was “a very strong strike and blow to the Syrian government”.
“In the past few weeks we’ve seen the government making gains on the ground, so this seems more of a defiant move to show the government the rebels are not giving up,” she said.
A Syrian government official told The Associated Press that an improvised explosive device was placed under a car that was parked in the area and was detonated as al-Halqi’s car drove by.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group of activists with a network of sources in Syria, said one of al-Halqi’s bodyguards had been killed.
“A second bodyguard and the driver are in critical condition,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
The government-run Al-Ikhbariya station said al-Halqi went into a meeting with an economic committee straight after the bombing.
A news bulletin quoted al-Halqi as saying “these types of attacks are nothing but proof of the discouragement and despair of the terrorist groups as a result of the actions of the Syrian army”.
Several government and military institutions are situated in the upper-scale neighbourhood of al-Mazzeh where many senior Syrian officials live.
Al-Halqi was appointed to the position in August 2012 after his predecessor Riad Hijab defected to the opposition.
The attack was not the first targeting a high official in the Syrian capital over the past year.
On Jul. 18, a blast at the Syrian national security building in Damascus during a meeting of Cabinet ministers killed the defence minister and his deputy, who was President Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law.
That attack also wounded the interior minister.
In December, a car bomb targeted the Interior Ministry in Damascus, killing several people and wounding more than 20, including Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar.
Initially, Syrian state media said al-Shaar was not hurt in the Dec. 12 blast.
News of his injuries emerged a week later, after he was brought to Lebanon for treatment of a serious back injury.
*Published under an agreement with Al Jazeera.