SYRIA-BLAST
Louai Beshara  /  AFP - Getty Images
Syrians inspect damaged shops following one of the deadliest attacks to hit Syria in a dozen years, state media say.
msnbc.com news services
updated 9/27/2008 9:57:27 AM ET 2008-09-27T13:57:27

A car bomb on a street in the Syrian capital of Damascus killed 17 people and injured more than a dozen others Saturday, Syrian television reported.

The TV said a car packed with 440 pounds of explosives blew up on Mahlak Street, located in a southern neighborhood of the capital near the junction to the city's international airport. Anti-terror units were investigating, it said.

It occurred at the intersection leading to Saydah Zeinab, a holy shrine for Shiite Muslims that is frequently visited by Iranian and Iraqi pilgrims. Al-Jazeera TV reported that the car bomb exploded near a Syrian intelligence post in the Sidi Kadad area.

Rare bombings
Such bombings are rare in Syria, but over the last year, the country has witnessed two major assassinations.

In February, a car bomb assassinated Imad Moughniyah, military commander of the Islamist group Hezbollah.

Last month, a senior security officer was killed at a beach resort near the port city of Tartous in mysterious circumstances.

Government tested
Several explosions blamed on Sunni Muslim militants opposed to Syria's secular government have also taken place over the last few years.

But Saturday's bombing was by far the largest and tested weaknesses of the government's traditionally tight security grip.

Police sealed off the area, blocking motorists and pedestrians from approaching from where the blast occurred around 8:45 a.m.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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