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ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: A car bomb killed at least 53 people and wounded 200 in central Damascus on Thursday when it blew up on a busy highway close to ruling Baath Party offices and the Russian Embassy, Syrian television said. State media said was the result of a suicide bombing by "terrorists" battling President Bashar al-Assad. Central Damascus has been relatively insulated from almost two years of unrest and civil war in which around 70,000 people have been killed across the country, but the bloodshed has shattered suburbs around the capital. Rebels who control districts to the south and east of Damascus have attacked Assad's power base for nearly a month and struck with devastating bombs over the last year. The al Qaeda-linked rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra, which claimed responsibility for several of those bombs, says it carried out 17 attacks around Damascus in the first half of February, including at least seven bombings. Activists said most of the victims of Thursday's attack in the city's Mazraa district were civilians, including children, possibly from a school behind the Baath building. Opposition activists reported further explosions elsewhere in the city after the explosion which struck shortly before 11 a.m. (0900 GMT). The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors violence via a network of sources inside Syria, said the Mazraa car bomb detonated at a checkpoint close to the Baath Party building, located about 660 feet or 200 meters from the Russian embassy.
Feb. 21 - A car bomb kills at least 53 people in central Damascus when it blew up near ruling Baath Party offices and the Russian Embassy. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). ( Transcript )
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