A suicide car bombing in central Damascus left at least eight people dead and 12 people wounded on Sunday but authorities say they were able to thwart part of the attack that would have led to much more casualties, reports The Associated Press.
Three cars were loaded with explosives and headed toward the city's downtown before police were able to intercept two of them at checkpoints on Damascus Airport Motorway, according to the Interior Ministry. Those two cars detonated.
Syrian State TV showed burnt out cars and buses and damaged buildings along the road.
The Syrian Minister of Local Administration, Hussein Makhlouf, told AP that authorities achieved "a major success in foiling a plot," that could have led to mass casualties.
The third car, however, was able to make it into the city center close to Tahrir Square where the bomb went off.
It was a rare attack on Damascus — the seat of President Bashar Assad's government — despite the Syrian War having raged on in the country since 2011.
As AP reports:
"Pro-government forces have engaged in heavy fighting in Damascus' suburbs during the war, but have largely kept the rebels out of the city center. In recent days, Syrian troops and allied forces have been fighting to drive the rebels out of Ain Terma and Jobar, adjacent areas on the city's eastern outskirts that have been under rebel control since 2011.
The rebels accused the Syrian army of attacking them with chlorine gas on Saturday, but the military denied using any chemical weapons, reports Reuters.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll of all three of Sunday's car bombings at 21, including the drivers and seven members of the regime forces and their allies.
The opposition monitoring group said the number of dead is likely to rise due to the number of critically injured.