BEIRUT — A car bomb exploded Monday in a Damascus district that is home to many security personnel and members of President Bashar Assad’s Alawite sect, killing 11 people and wounding dozens of others, the official state media reported.
The attack was part of a wave of violence reported Monday across Syria, including a massive car bomb apparently targeting a military post in the central province of Hama and aerial bombardment of rebel held towns in northwest Syria. Scores were reported killed.
Monday’s car bombing in Damascus’ Mazzeh Jabal 86 district, with a large concentration of Alawites, is the latest in a series of explosions in the Syrian capital that could inflame sectarian tensions. Mostly Sunni Muslim rebels have been fighting to oust Assad, whose Alawite sect is considered an offshoot of the Shiite branch of Islam.
Other Damascus-area bombs in recent weeks have detonated near a revered Shiite shrine, Sayyida Zainab, and in the Bab Touma district, a historic Christian neighborhood in Damascus’ Old City.
Assad has depicted his administration as a defender of Syria’s minority groups. His government, deeply unpopular with much of the Sunni majority, maintains considerable support among Alawite, Shiite and Christian minorities.
The government blames the attacks on “terrorists," its label for armed rebels.
It remained unclear if the Damascus bombings represent part of a coordinated opposition campaign, are the actions of autonomous rebel groups, or whether there is some alternate explanation. The disparate rebel factions fighting to oust Assad lack a central chain of command.
Also in the Damascus area, the government news service reported five people were killed when rebels launched a mortar attack on a public transportation mini-bus in the Yarmouk camp, home to many Palestinian refugees.
Claims by both sides of the fighting are difficult to verify because the government has limited the access of outside media to conflict zones.
The Associated Press reported that pro- and anti-Assad Palestinian factions clashed Monday in the capital. Syria’s civil conflict has divided Syria’s huge Palestinian refugee community.
Meanwhile, opposition representatives said among the rebel-held areas bombarded Monday by government aircraft was of Kafarnabel, in northwest Idlib province. The town has achieved a measure of international notoriety because of residents’ witty protest banners, some penned in English, that have been posted on YouTube, usually following Friday prayers and demonstrations. Residents also displayed elaborate caricatures assailing the Assad government.
On Monday, opposition footage said to be from Kafarnabel showed scenes of charred bodies, vehicles aflame and volunteers with hoses trying to put out fires. The opposition said at least 17 people died in the bombardment.
In Hama province, an opposition representative reported that a rebel-detonated car bomb at a military post in the rural district of al-Ziyara killed as many as 100 government soldiers. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based opposition group, said at least 50 soldiers were killed in the suicide attack. If either account is accurate, the fatality toll would be likely be among the largest number of security personnel killed to date in a single strike.
The government has stopped providing casualty numbers for security officers and there was no official confirmation of how many soldiers, if any, had been killed in the Hama bombing.