DAMASCUS: At least 14 people were killed when twin explosions caused by suicide bomb attackers struck near a police station in Damascus on Tuesday, state television said, updating its earlier toll.
“The number of casualties after a twin suicide attack in Marjeh square has risen to 14 dead and 31 injured,” said the broadcaster.
“The two suicide explosions took place near a police station,” it added.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the blasts, but put the toll higher at 15.
“The number of people killed after two explosions in Marjeh square in Damascus has risen to 15,” said the Britain-based monitoring group.
One of the blasts “was caused by a suicide bomb attacker who blew himself up inside the police station,” said the Observatory, revising its earlier reports.
“A second explosion took place just outside the police station,” the group said, without elaborating on the nature of that blast.
“The number of casualties is expected to rise because several of the wounded are in critical condition,” added the Observatory, which relies on a network of activists, doctors and lawyers for its reports.
Areas of central Damascus have suffered frequent bomb attacks through the course of Syria’s 26-month war. Most attacks were claimed subsequently by the jihadist Al-Nusra Front.
Meanwhile, Syrian rebels have clashed with government troops after converging on a military airport in Aleppo as the United States said it was considering “all possible options” to help the opposition.
Buoyed by victory in the strategic town of Qusayr on the border with Lebanon, President Bashar al-Assad’s troops have been readying to open a northern front in Aleppo province on the border with Turkey.
The 26-month conflict pitting mainly Sunni Muslim rebels against Assad’s regime, dominated by his Alawite sect of Shiite Islam, has on occasion spilled over into Lebanon and Turkey.
It has also threatened to draw in Israel, where a minister admitted on Monday that Assad could triumph in the war, which has already killed more than 94,000 and forced millions to flee their homes.
After suffering a string of battlefield losses in and around Qusayr in the past week, rebel fighters advanced on the Minnigh airbase in Aleppo province on Monday, a monitoring group reported.
“Opposition fighters have seized the radar tower in the Minnigh airbase,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman told Agence France-Presse.
“Fierce clashes have raged in the airbase since dawn Sunday.”
State media said the rebel assault had been repulsed.
“Troops from our heroic army stopped terrorist groups from assaulting the Minnigh army airbase,” said the official Syrian News Agency.
The development came as US Secretary of State John Kerry postponed a visit to the Middle East in order to attend White House talks on Syria.
Kerry is struggling to put together a peace conference on Syria in tandem with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, as Washington comes under increasing pressure to arm the opposition, although it has provided aid for things like night-vision goggles and body armor.
Amid wrangling between Syrian opposition leaders and a fierce debate over exactly who should attend, the date for such talks initially slated for May has now slipped to July at the earliest.