UK & World News
Damascus: Dozens Die In Rush-Hour Explosions
More than 40 people have been killed and 170 wounded in two powerful explosions in the Syrian capital Damascus, according to state TV.
Reports said the "terrorist bombings" targeted an area that houses a military intelligence complex as employees were arriving for work.
The state TV channel broadcast footage of the aftermath of the explosions showing burnt bodies in the mangled wreckage of vehicles on what was described as a "freeway south of Damascus".
"Two explosions caused by terrorists took place on the freeway in the south of Damascus," state television said, adding the blasts occurred "as people were heading to work and children to school."
The opposition Syrian National Council said the regime of President Bashar al Assad was behind the twin bombings.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, put the death toll at about 50, including civilians and security forces members.
Heavily damaged cars and pick-up trucks were left smoldering in the area.
The blasts caused the outer wall of the headquarters to collapse, although the basic structure inside appeared intact, according to reports.
Plumes of smoke were seen rising above the city.
Residents said the two blasts occured within seconds of each other at 8am local time.
"The house shook like it was an earthquake," Maha Hijazi, who lives across the street from the military compound, told the Associated Press.
The explosions left two craters at the gate of the complex.
The head of the UN observer mission, Major General Robert Mood, visited the site in the neighbourhood of Tadamun and appealed for an end to the bloodshed in Syria.
"This is yet another example of the suffering brought upon the people of Syria from acts of violence," he said."We, the world community, are here with the Syrian people and I call on everyone within and outside Syria to help stop this violence."
The latest blasts have taken the death toll in Syria towards the 10,000 mark.
A few weeks ago the UN said more than 9,000 people had been killed since the start of the conflict in March 2011. Hundreds more have died since.
On Wednesday, a convoy of vehicles carrying Maj Gen Mood and other observers was hit by a bomb attack in the southern city of Deraa.
Six Syrian soldiers who were escorting the UN mission were injured in the explosion.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon responded to the attack by warning there was only a "brief window" to avoid civil war in Syria.
A team of UN observers are meant to be monitoring a ceasefire in Syria, but the truce has been breached by both the regime forces and the rebel fighters.
Syrian activists claim at least 800 people have been killed in the country since the April 12 deadline for the ceasefire, brokered by the UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
Syria has been hit by a series of deadly bomb blasts, including several suicide attacks, which the regime blames on the "armed terrorist groups" of the opposition.
The latest incident in Damascus comes less than two weeks after nine people were killed in a suicide bombing in the city.
The opposition claims the regime is carrying out the attacks to discredit the protests against the rule of President al Assad.
Mr Ban has indicated that the UN monitoring mission could be threatened by the surge of violence.
He said both sides had to realise that there was a "brief opportunity to create an opening for political engagement between the government and those seeking change".