Bombings in Damascus, southern Syrian city kill 16

Reuters

* Syrian major killed in rare Suweida blast

* Central Damascus bombing kills 8, wounds more than 50

BEIRUT, Nov 6 (Reuters) - A car bomb killed at least eightsecurity personnel in a rare attack on a military intelligenceheadquarters in the southern Syrian city of Suweida onWednesday, and a separate blast killed eight people in Damascus.

The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rightsmonitoring group said the car bomb in Suweida, which had largelyspared violence in Syria's civil war, had also wounded dozens.

The Observatory's head, Rami Abdelrahman, said a major -earlier identified as a colonel - was among security officerskilled in the blast at the regional Air Force Intelligenceheadquarters. He was believed to be the head of the branch andlocals told the Observatory a second officer may also have died.

Local opposition activists said a suicide bomber had spedthrough a checkpoint outside the headquarters and blown up hiscar. Rebels then tried to storm the building and clasheserupted, they said, killing several opposition fighters.

A photograph uploaded by activists showed a thick column ofsmoke rising above the Suweida skyline.

The state news agency SANA said the Suweida blast wounded 41people but made no mention of the target, saying only that a"terrorist" car bomb had hit a square in the city.

State media often use the word terrorist to describe rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad in a struggle thathas cost well over 100,000 lives since it began in March 2011.

The government-controlled Suweida region is home to manyDruze, who have mostly stayed neutral in the conflict, althoughsome have joined paramilitary forces supporting Assad.

Earlier in the day, SANA said an improvised bomb hadexploded in Hejaz Square in the crowded heart of Damascus,killing eight people and wounding at least 50.

The British-based Observatory, which has a network ofactivists across Syria, put the toll there at seven dead and atleast 20 wounded. It cited conflicting reports from activists asto whether the explosion was caused by a bomb or a mortar shell.

Rebels have seized a ring of suburbs outside the capital butthe army has blockaded these areas to try to keep centralDamascus secure. Insurgents have resorted to improvised bombs tostrike security and political targets in government-held areas.

Damascus residents reported seeing a mortar bomb land nearthe army's General Staff headquarters in Umayyad Square, a bigroad intersection, on Wednesday. They had no word on casualties.

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