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At Least 15 Killed in Damascus Blast

  • VOA News

A suicide car bomb attack in the Syrian capital has killed at least 15 people and wounded more than 50.

The attack was near Sabaa Bahrat Square, a central area in Damascus.

Syrian state TV showed smoke billowing from dozens of charred cars and buildings with windows blown out by the blast. Syrian officials are blaming "terrorists," a term they frequently use to describe rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad's military forces.

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that a team investigating claims of chemical weapons use in Syria is ready to deploy in the country within 24 hours, but is still waiting for approval from the Syrian government.

Ban told reporters Monday in The Hague that the team led by Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom is waiting in Cyprus, and that discussions continue with Syria over some technical and legal issues.

"All we are waiting for is the go-ahead from the Syrian government for a thorough investigation to determine whether any chemical weapons were used in any location," said Ban. "Ultimately, this is about the well-being of the Syrian people who have suffered enough already. The longer we wait, the harder this essential mission will be."

He urged the Syrian government to be more flexible in the negotiations to ensure the investigators can deploy as soon as possible. Ban said delays will make it more difficult to gather samples.

The Syrian government and rebels opposed to Assad have traded accusations about the use of chemical weapons. Ban said Monday "all allegations should be investigated" without any preconditions.

A U.N. spokesman said last month that the aim of the mission is not to find blame, but rather to discover if chemical weapons were used.

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