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6 killed as bomb targets Syria's prime minister, state TV reports

Wael al-Halqi, the prime minister of Syria, escaped an assassination attempt this morning when a bomb went off near his convoy in Damascus.

Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halki survived a bomb attack on his convoy in Damascus on Monday, state media and activists said, as rebels struck in the heart of President Bashar Assad's capital.

Six people were killed in the blast, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, the latest in a series of rebel attacks on government targets including a December bombing that wounded Assad's interior minister.

Halki wields little power, but the attack highlighted the rebels' growing ability to target symbols of Assad's authority in a civil war that has cost more than 70,000 lives, according to the United Nations.


This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA shows firefighters extinguishing burning cars after a blast in the Mazzeh neighborhood of Damascus, Syria, on Monday.

Assad picked Halki in August to replace Riyadh Hijab, who defected and escaped to neighboring Jordan just weeks after a Damascus bombing killed four of the president's top security advisers.

In comments released by the state news agency SANA but not shown on television, Halki was quoted as condemning the attack as a sign of "bankruptcy and failure of the terrorist groups," a reference to the rebels battling to overthrow Assad.

The blast shook the Mezze district soon after 9 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET) and sent thick black smoke into the sky. The Observatory said one man accompanying Halki was killed as well as five passers-by.

State television showed firemen hosing down the charred and mangled remains of a car. Nearby was a large white bus, its windows blown out and its seats gutted by fire. Glass and debris were scattered across several lanes of a main road.

"The terrorist explosion in al-Mezze was an attempt to target the convoy of the prime minister. Doctor Wael al-Halki is well and not hurt at all," state television said.

It later broadcast footage of Halki, who appeared composed and unruffled, chairing what it said was an economic committee.

Mezze is part of a shrinking "Square of Security" in central Damascus, where many government and military institutions are based and where senior Syrian officials live.

Sheltered for nearly two years from the bloodshed and destruction ravaging much of the rest of Syria, it has been slowly sucked into violence as rebel forces based to the east of the capital launch mortar attacks and carry out bombings in the center.

Republican lawmakers on Sunday continued their push for U.S. intervention in Syria. NBC's Peter Alexander reports.


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