Second suicide attack in two weeks hits central Damascus police headquarters

AMMAN: Suicide bombers struck a police headquarters in central Damascus on Wednesday, Syrian state media report, killing at least two people and wounding six others in the second deadly suicide blast to hit the capital in the span of two weeks.

Armed with explosive belts, two attackers “blew themselves up” in front of the police headquarters on the outskirts of the Midan district in southern central Damascus, Syrian state news agency SANA reported. A third bomber detonated himself at a nearby market, the agency said.

The Islamic State-linked Amaq News Agency reported the bombing shortly after it occurred late Wednesday afternoon, suggesting the group likely carried out the attack—though IS did not explicitly claim responsibility as of Wednesday evening local time.

The two people killed in Wednesday's bombing were police officers stationed at the headquarters, pro-regime outlet Damascus Now reported. The identities of six others injured in the attack were not reported.

After a suicide attack in southern central Damascus on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Damascus Now

“We heard two consecutive explosions” at the time of the attack, Abu Saleh, a Damascus resident who was near the scene of the bombing told Syria Direct on Wednesday. “I went closer and asked my friends what was going on—they said three people were clashing with the police.”

“Two of them blew themselves up and the third tried to escape but [I heard that the police] were able to kill him,” Abu Saleh said.

Wednesday’s attack comes just over a week after suicide bombers attacked another police station less than one kilometer away in the same district on October 2, killing dozens of people, state media outlet SANA and pro-regime Damascus Now reported at the time.

That attack was later claimed by the Islamic State in a statement posted online.

Both the October 2 bombing and Wednesday's attack took place despite a large police presence and widespread regime security checkpoints throughout the Syrian capital city.

Aftermath of Wednesday’s suicide attack in Midan, Damascus. Photo courtesy of Damascus Now

Regime-held Damascus is, for the most part, relatively insulated from the battles being fought elsewhere in the country—including clashes waged with artillery and airstrikes just outside the city limits in the northeastern suburbs. 

But recent suicide attacks show the capital is not immune from the war surrounding it, and raise questions about just how secure the city is.

IS also claimed an attack last March near Damascus’ Old City center, Syria Direct reported at the time. 

Abu Saleh, who saw the aftermath of Wednesday’s attack, claimed there were “no checkpoints at all” surrounding the police building targeted by the bombers.

“Lately, [authorities] have been removing checkpoints” around the city, Abu Saleh added. “Even after the last explosion in Midan, nothing changed in the neighborhood with regards to checkpoints.”

“Everyone is wondering how these people were able to enter the capital.”

Waleed Khaled a-Noufal

Waleed a-Noufal was born in Ankhel in northern Daraa province. He attended high school in Ankhel but could not continue his study because of security reasons. Waleed worked as an activist in his local city council and the Umayya Media Center. In 2013, he moved to Jordan and finished his high school degree. Waleed wants to bring about a solution to the current crisis through his reporting. Follow Waleed on Twitter: @walid_ALnofal.

Noura Hourani

Noura Hourani is from Latakia province. She studied English Literature at Tishreen University and previously worked as a private English tutor in Syria. She has worked at Syria Direct since 2015 and was named the 2018 Middle East and North Africa Laureate for the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers' (WAN-IFRA) Women in News Editorial Leadership Award. Follow Noura on Twitter: @nanozain81

Ammar Hamou

Ammar Hammou is from Douma city in outer Damascus. He studied journalism at Damascus University and left Syria in 2011. Follow Ammar on Twitter: @Ammar_Hamou.

Madeline Edwards

Madeline Edwards graduated from the College of Charleston in 2016 and previously reported for The Daily Star in Beirut. Follow Madeline on Twitter: @MEdwardsJO.