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At least 17 dead as suicide bombings hit Damascus police station

At least 17 dead as suicide bombings hit Damascus police station

The militant Islamic State (IS) group on Tuesday claimed a bomb attack at a police station in the Syrian capital Damascus a day earlier that killed at least 17 people.

In a statement circulated on its social media accounts, the group said three of its fighters armed with guns, grenades and explosives were involved in the attack in the southern neighbourhood of Midan on Monday.

The Syrian interior ministry said on Monday that the attack involved two suicide bombers, one of whom managed to penetrate the police station and reach the first floor before his explosives detonated.

But a monitor reported a third explosion involved a car bomb outside the police station, and the IS claim also referred to the third attacker blowing himself up separately from the other two.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said at least 17 people were killed in the attack, among them 13 police officers.

Damascus has been largely insulated from the worst of the violence during the country's brutal six-year civil war, but several bomb attacks have shaken the city. The Midan police station has itself been targeted before.

More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

In December 2016, three police officers were wounded when a seven-year-old girl walked into the police station wearing an explosive belt that was remotely detonated.

The regime is currently waging several offensives against IS, including in the Badiya desert region and in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor.

The group is rapidly losing territory across Syria, though it retains a handful of positions, including in the Yarmuk camp in Damascus.

State television showed images of damage from inside the police station, with a black police uniform shirt covered in dust lying in the rubble of partially collapsed walls.

The entire front of one room on the first floor had been blown out by the explosion, and inside what remained, twisted bits of metal were scattered across the rubble.

Policemen carried one body away from the scene wrapped inside a white tarpaulin.

Manal, a 28-year-old teacher living in Midan, said she heard at least two blasts on Monday afternoon.

"I was coming back from work when I heard the sound of an explosion, it was around 2:30 pm, I didn't know what it was, and then there was another explosion a few minutes later and buildings shook," she told AFP.

"Afterwards I heard gunfire, which usually happens to get people to move out of the way and clear the road so ambulances can get through to retrieve the injured," she added.

A wide array of international players have been drawn in on both sides, with the government relying on allies including Iran, Russia and the powerful Hezbollah militia from neighbouring Lebanon.

Ten Hezbollah members were killed on Monday in a suspected drone strike in the Badiya desert region in the central province of Homs, the Observatory reported, revising an earlier toll of at least eight.

The unidentified strike came near the town of Sukhna in a region where Syria's government and allied fighters are battling the Islamic State jihadist group.

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