Suicide bombers attack Damascus police center: Syrian state media

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Three men blew themselves up near the police headquarters in central Damascus on Wednesday, killing two people and injuring six others, state media said, citing the interior ministry.

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Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, the second this month.

Two suicide bombers tried to storm the police center and clashed with guards before detonating explosive devices outside on Khalid bin al-Walid street, the Damascus police chief said.

Police forces then chased down the third attacker, who blew himself up nearby at the entrance to a clothes market.

“Our investigations are ongoing to find out where they came from and how,” police chief Mohammad Kheir Ismail told state TV from outside the headquarters. “The issue has been controlled.”

An Islamic State statement said three suicide bombers had attacked the police center with machine guns and explosive belts.

Islamic State also claimed responsibility earlier this month for a similar suicide bomb attack on a police station in another part of Damascus, in which 17 people were reported dead.

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Damascus has enjoyed relative security as Syria’s six-year civil war has raged on nearby and across the country. But several such attacks have hit the capital in recent years, including a car bomb that killed 20 people in July.

Islamic State and Tahrir al-Sham - led by militants formerly linked to al Qaeda - have each claimed separate suicide blasts that killed scores of people in Damascus previously.

“The desperate suicide attempts come as a response to the victories of the Syrian Arab Army, and the Interior Ministry is fully ready to thwart any terrorist act,” state television quoted Interior Minister Mohammad al-Shaar as saying.

With the help of Russian jets and Iran-backed militias, the Damascus government has pushed back rebels in western Syria, shoring up its rule over the main urban centers. In recent months, it has also marched eastwards against Islamic State.

Syrian troops and allied forces have recaptured several suburbs of Damascus from rebel factions over the past year. The army and its allies have been fighting insurgents in the Jobar and Ain Tarma districts on the capital’s eastern outskirts.

Reporting by Ellen Francis; additional reporting by Ali Abdelatti in Cairo; Editing by Gareth Jones