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Syria: More Than 50 Killed In Bomb Blast

At least 53 people have been killed in a car bombing near the headquarters of the ruling Baath party in Syria's capital, state media said.

Around 200 others were hurt, it claimed, adding the atrocity was a suicide attack by "terrorists" battling President Bashar al Assad in a two-year uprising.

The attack was "carried out by armed terrorist groups linked to al Qaeda that receive financial and logistic help from abroad," the ministry said in a statement, using government terminology for rebels battling the Syrian regime.

Most of the victims in the Mazraa district of Damascus were reportedly civilians, including children, possibly from a school behind the Baath building, and it was the deadliest attack inside the capital in nine months.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors violence via a network of sources inside Syria, said at least 42 people were killed.

The organisation reported the device was detonated at a checkpoint close to the Baath party building, about 200 metres from the Russian embassy, and members of the Syrian security forces also died.

Syrian television broadcast footage of several bodies along a main street and firefighters dousing dozens of burning vehicles.

Debris was spread over a wide area and black smoke billowed into the sky.

The windows of the Russian embassy were blown out by the blast but none of its staff were hurt, Russian news agencies reported.

One local resident said: "It was huge, everything in the shop turned upside down."

Damascus has so far mostly avoided the large-scale violence that has destroyed other Syrian cities.

But rebels who control districts to the south and east of the capital have been attacking Mr Assad's power base for nearly a month, and have carried out devastating bombings several times in the last year.

The United Nations has said around 70,000 people have died in the uprising since it began in March 2011.

The attack came as the opposition umbrella group, the National Coalition, was meeting in Cairo, Egypt, to discuss proposals to hold conditional talks with Mr Assad's regime.