Syrian Prime Minister Wael Al-Halqi survived a car bomb attack on Monday in Damascus, Syria's state television said, dubbing the attack as an assassination attempt.
“The terrorist explosion in Mazzeh was an attempt to target the prime minister's convoy and Dr. Wael Al-Halqi was unharmed,” state television reported.
U.K.-based activist group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported that a car bomb targeted Halqi's convoy as it passed through the Mazzeh district of Damascus, killing one of his bodyguards.
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP news agency that Halqi's driver and a second bodyguard were also seriously wounded in the explosion.
A Syrian government official told the Associated Press news agency that an improvised explosive device was placed under a car that was parked in the area and was detonated as Halqi's car drove by.
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The attack has raised suspicions that it was staged by the government to draw away attention from fighting in the rest of the country.
Speaking to the Guardian newspaper from an undisclosed location in the city, Susan Ahmad, a Damascus activist from the Revolutionary Council, said the assassination attempt had all the hallmarks of a fake attack carried out by the government.
“After the explosion took place helicopters hovered over the area, state TV was there, ambulances rushed to the area. This is usually what happens when the regime fakes an explosion or target somebody…” Ahmad said.
“The regime is trying to draw the attention of everybody away from what’s going on in other places.”
“Usually when the opposition targets anyone, they are not afraid to declare it. When that happens the regime prevents anyone from going to the area [including state TV and emergency workers],” Ahmad added.
The attack in the highly secure Mazzeh neighborhood took place only about 100 meters from the residence of the Swiss ambassador. The posh neighborhood is also home to a major military air base.
Syrian television showed footage of heavily damaged cars and debris in the area as firefighters fought to extinguish a large blaze set off by the explosion, the AP reported. A blackened shell of a school bus was left standing. A man told state TV that none of the students on board were hurt because the explosion went off shortly after they had left the bus and headed into the school.
According to the state media, Halqi went ahead with his schedule straight after the bombing and was shown sitting around a table in a room with several other officials, attending a regular weekly meeting with an economic committee.