Suicide bombers at Damascus justice building, cafe kill at least 30

A pair of suicide bombers attacked the main judicial building in the Syrian capital of Damascus Wednesday and a restaurant  on the outskirts of town, killing at least 30 people and injuring scores, according to Syrian state media.

Syria’s Al Madina radio quoted the Syrian minister of justice as putting the death toll in the Justice Palace attack at 31, with at least 60 wounded.

In the second attack, the Syrian state-owned SANA news agency reported that three “terrorists” were being chased by authorities, when one ran into a restaurant in the al-Raboah district and set off an explosive vest, killing and injuring a number of people. The other two attackers were arrested, the agency said.

Damascus police chief Mohammad Kheir Ismail told Syrian state TV that the attacker at the Judicial Palace was wearing a military uniform and carrying a shotgun and grenades when he tried to force his way into the building around 1:20 p.m. local time.

Guards stopped the man, took away his weapons and asked to search him. At that point, the attacker threw himself inside the building and detonated his suicide vest, Ismail said.

“This is a dirty action as people who enter the palace are innocent,” Syria’s attorney general, Ahmad al-Sayed, told state TV. He said the attacker timed the bombing to kill the largest number of lawyers, judges and other people who work or visit the Justice Palace, located near Damascus’ popular and crowded Hamidiyeh market.

The blast follows a pair of attacks Saturday that killed at least 40 people in the Syrian capital. Those assaults were claimed by Syria’s al-Qaeda branch, formerly known as the Nusra Front, that is fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. No group immediately claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack.

It came as Syrians mark the sixth anniversary of the country’s bitter civil war, which has killed more than 400,000 people and displaced millions of others. The conflict began in March 2011 as a popular uprising against Assad’s rule before quickly descended into a full-blown civil war. The chaos allowed al-Qaeda and later the Islamic State group to gain a foothold in the war-torn nation.

Sources: USA Today and Associated Press