July 2 (UPI) — At least 18 people were reported dead and several others injured in a trio of suicide car bombings in the Syrian capital, Damascus.
Syrian state television confirmed one bomber detonated early Sunday at Tahrir Square, near Bab Touma in central Damascus, after being surrounded by pro-government Syrian security forces, while the other two were pursued and detonated by security forces on the road to the Damascus airport.
State TV confirmed eight deaths and 13 injuries from the attacks, while the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 18 people were killed, including seven members of the Syrian security forces, three attackers, and two civilians. The remaining victims were not identified by the group.
State TV said the casualties were minimized because the bombers did not reach their intended targets before detonating. Damascus Gov. Bashr al-Sabban said the attackers had been headed for the City Center.
Damascus Police Chief Mohamad Kheir Ismail said authorities had pursued the suspicious cars after spotting them on the highway.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The bombings marked the deadliest attack in Damascus since mid-March, when 32 people were killed in bombings at a courthouse and a restaurant in the capital. Those bombings, claimed by terror network Islamic State, came two days after a pair of explosions in Damascus’ Old City killed 74 people and were claimed by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance.
Sunday’s attack came on the first full work day after Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Ramadan.
President Bashar al-Assad‘s government has recently solidified its control over Syria’s main cities in the country’s six-year civil war, which observers said has displaced more than half of the country’s pre-war population of 22 million.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees issued a report Friday that said there has been a “notable trend of spontaneous returns to and within Syria” so far in 2017.
According to the data, more than 440,000 “internally displaced” Syrians have returned to their homes in the country between January and July.