April 8, 2013

Mazen Bassel is the spokesman for the Shahed News Network, a local media outlet in Damascus that provides credible, independent news from vetted citizen journalists. Bassel spoke to Ahmed Kwider via Skype about the car bomb that shook Damascus today.

Q: What are you hearing since the explosion in central Damascus?

 A: It was probably a car bomb, according to the government’s story. The explosion occurred in the parking lot of the Investment Authority between the Seba Bahrat and al-Shahabander squares. Smoke filled the area for half an hour. We didn’t know what the target was. The explosion was even bigger than the previous one near al-Hayat Hospital [in Mazraa]. Our entire building, 500 meters away from the explosion, was shaking. They said there were tens of casualties and fuel tanks caught fire because it took them a long time to put out the fire. All neighboring roads were closed after the explosion, and security forces were firing in the air to scare people away.

Q: What are people saying about this explosion and how are they reacting?

A: No group has claimed responsibility for this explosion. All people are upset about yet another explosion. They are tired of analyzing and asking the questions about who’s behind it; whether it’s the regime or other groups.

I think this explosion was carried by the same people who bombed al-Hayat Hospital. This is my personal opinion. In the end the explosion happened and those responsible for it are unknown.

The parking lot in the Investment and Financial Authority, at the Central Bank, is surrounded by army checkpoints. Some reports indicated that some groups were able to breach the security in prior attacks. It’s hard to tell whether the regime or other groups were behind this explosion.

Q: What is the government saying about this? What is their reaction?

A: They reported as usual that some terrorists exploded a car bomb in Seba Bahrat Square or the parking lot of the Investment Authority at the Central Bank.

Q: What do you think the purpose of this explosion is now?

A: It’s not clear what the target was. It’s a parking lot of the Investment Authority. People always go there, and there is a school in front of it. I don’t think it’s a target for the armed opposition because they have other targets which are more significant.

The explosion took place in the heart of Damascus, shutting down the entire city. There were many casualties; 15 deaths and 47 injuries according to the government’s story.

When any explosion happens, security forces and shabiha deploy and begin firing in the air to scare people away.