Syria’s Prime Minister escaped an assassination attempt on Monday when a bomb exploded near his convoy in Damascus, state media reported, in the latest attack to target a top official in President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi was not hurt in the explosion in the capital’s western neighbourhood of Mazzeh, state TV said. The state news agency quoted Mr. Halqi as saying the attack exposes how armed groups “are bankrupt” after the latest advances made by Syrian troops around the country.
There were conflicting reports about casualties. The state news agency said one person was killed and several were wounded in the blast. Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the explosion killed five, including two of Mr. Halqi’s bodyguards and one of the drivers in his convoy.
The daring attack in the upscale neighbourhood, home to many embassies and government officials, was another blow to the Assad regime, exposing its vulnerability in the very heart of his power base.
State TV quoted Syria’s Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi as saying that targeting Mr. Halqi, who is in charge of carrying out the political programme to end Syria’s crisis, shows that some in the opposition “reject a political solution”.
In January, Mr. Halqi formed a ministerial committee to conduct dialogue with opposition groups. The dialogue is part of efforts to implement a peace plan, including a national reconciliation conference, Mr. Assad outlined in a speech earlier that month.
A Syrian government official told The Associated Press that an improvised explosive device was placed under a car that was parked in the area and was detonated as Mr. Halqi’s convoy passed. Mr. Halqi, a senior member of Mr. Assad’s ruling Baath party, took office last year after his predecessor, Riad Hijab, defected to Jordan. He hails from the southern city of Daraa, the birthplace of the Syrian uprising.
Elsewhere in Syria, the Observatory reported fighting on Monday near the Damascus International Airport south of the capital.