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Damascus bombs kill at least 15, groups say as pesonal attacks expand

Updated at 6:45 p.m. ET: Explosions hit the Hai al-Wuroud district in northwest Damascus on Tuesday, killing at least 15, Syrian state media and regime foes reported. Also Tuesday, gunmen shot dead the brother of the parliament speaker in the latest rebel attack on a figure associated with the ruling elite.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group monitoring the violence, said at least 40 were wounded in the attack that used three bombs.


Hai al-Wuroud, a hilltop neighborhood inhabited mostly by members of President Bashar Assad's minority Alawite sect, is situated near barracks and housing for elite army units.

An opposition group and an activist organization say that 269 people have died in a rash of violence since Sunday. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

Damascus has several hilltop enclaves mostly inhabited by the Alawite, a sect of Shiite Islam that has dominated Syria, which has a Sunni Muslim majority, since the 1960s.

Later Tuesday, a car bomb exploded near a shopping center in northeast Damascus, killing and injuring several people, opposition activists in the capital said. This latest spate of violence came a day after more than 250 people were killed, according to an activist monitoring group.

The bomb went off near Qasioun Mall in the religiously and ethnically mixed area of Ibn al-Nafis, they said.

The opposition said at least 100 more people were killed elsewhere in the civil war.

On Tuesday evening, activists reported another car bombing, near a mosque in the Sunni working-class district of al-Qadam in south Damascus, causing dozens more casualties. Buildings were damaged and bodies buried under debris that clogged the streets, the activists told Reuters.

"Lots of people were hit inside their apartments. Rescue efforts are hampered because electricity was cut off right after the explosion," said Abu Hamza al-Shami.

Officials and their families are increasingly being targeted by assassins as violence spreads in the capital. Victims have included parliamentarians, ruling Baath party officials, and even actors and doctors seen as Assad supporters.

State television said gunmen had assassinated Mohammed Osama al-Laham, brother of the speaker of parliament, in Damascus's Midan district. No group claimed immediate responsibility.

 

The United Nations and Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said in an interview with the newspaper al-Hayat that Syria could "turn into a new Somalia" unless the 19-month-old crisis ends soon, the BBC reported. Brahimi said he fears warlords and militias could come in to fill a void left by a collapsed state, according to the BBC.

Safe exit for Syria's Assad 'could be arranged,' says British prime minister

The Syrian uprising has left more than 32,000 dead since it began with peaceful protests in March 2011.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday before a visit to Saudi Arabia that a safe exit and possible immunity from prosecution for Assad "could be arranged" if it would end the conflict.

"Done. Anything, anything, to get that man out of the country and to have a safe transition in Syria," Cameron told the Saudi-based Al Arabiya news network in Abu Dhabi when asked about offering Assad safe passage.

Suicide bomb ups death toll in Syria to 269 since Sunday, groups say

"Of course I would favor him facing the full force of international law and justice for what he's done. I am certainly not offering him an exit plan to Britain, but if he wants to leave he could leave, that could be arranged," he said.

It was unclear if Cameron had spoken to other U.N. Security Council members about the idea, which could involve offering Assad immunity from prosecution if he accepted asylum in a third country. Nor was it clear what nation would take him.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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