Three car bombings rocked the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Wednesday morning, killing an estimated 40 people and injuring dozens. The blasts caused extensive damage and left huge piles of rubble in the city's largest square.
The bombings, for which no one claimed responsibility, struck Sadullah Al-Jabri Square and were said to have targeted a nearby military officers' club. The blasts were also not far from the local headquarters of the ruling Baath Party.
The square has been the site of the city's largest pro-regime rallies and has remained under government control even as Free Syrian Army rebels continue to seize other neighborhoods in the country's commercial hub.
"A series of large explosions shook Sadullah Al-Jabri Square and targeted the officers' club and destroyed the officers' club completely," said Abu Firas, a spokesman for the Revolutionary Council for Aleppo and its Suburbs.
There were differing reports from activists concerning who was killed in the blasts, with some saying the dead were all loyalist shabiha militiamen and army officers and others saying that almost two dozen civilians were killed. State media blamed the explosion on "terrorists," the term it uses to refer to all opposition members.
State media video after the attack showed streets covered in rubble and the front of the officers' club building completely destroyed. Plainclothes men carried bodies from the scene.
"We don't have any details on the explosion," Abu Firas said. "The picture is still unclear."
The explosions were felt throughout the city, parts of which have been targeted by regular government airstrikes since armed rebels first entered in late July. Residents reported gunfire after the bombings, and ambulances continued to race to the scene to carry away the dead and injured.
The square is both a strategic and symbolic area near the center of Aleppo, and rebels have had their sights set on taking it over ever since clashes with forces loyal to President Bashar Assad began in the city. It is not far from the old city, where for days fierce clashes have raged between rebels and regime forces as centuries-old historical areas have burned.
-- From a Times staff writer
Photo: A Syrian policeman standing amid rubbles at the site of three car bomb explosions in Aleppo. Credit: EPA