09/27/2008, 00.00
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Car bomb explodes in Damascus, 17 dead, 14 wounded

It's the bloodiest attack ever in Syrian territory, and follows another last February, against Hezbollah leader Imad Mughniyah, and in August, against a general in charge of relations with the Party of God.The attack took place on a road to the airport, not far from an important Shiite shrine.

Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) - 17 are dead  and 14 wounded following an attack at 8:45 local time this morning on Mahlak Street, in southern Damascus, not far from the highway connecting the Syrian capital with the airport.

A car bomb with more than 200 kilograms of explosives on board blew up on a road not far from the Saydah Zeinab neighborhood, where an important Shiite shrine stands (see photo), the pilgrimage destination for Iraqi and Iranian Muslims; it contains the remains of Zeinab, one of the nephews of the prophet Mohammed. According to the initial reconstructions provided by Iranian state television, the victims are all civilians, while Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera says that the area has been closed off by security forces.

It is still not known what the real target of the terrorists was, but a private local television station emphasizes that the attack took place near a Syrian security checkpoint. The army has shut off the area, denying access to journalists, while anti-terrorism special forces have opened investigations to discover who ordered the attack and who carried it out, although no one is yet claiming responsibility for the act.

It is the biggest attack ever in Syrian territory, where incidents of terrorism are rare: in February, Hezbollah military leader Imad Mughniyeh died in an attack. At the time, popular opinion attributed the responsibility to Israel - which did not decisively deny it. Some noted the extreme difficulty of organizing an attack of this kind against a prominent figure, and on a street not far from an office of the Syrian secret service, which must have at least looked the other way. Last August, a Syrian general was killed, Mohammed Suleiman, in charge of the relationship between Syria and Lebanon's Hezbollah, although that incident has remained shrouded in mystery.

A few days ago, authorities in Damascus deployed troops along the border with Lebanon, officially citing "reasons of domestic security".

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