Multiple Explosions Rock Central Damascus, Syria

Updated: 1pm EST. As the battle for Damascus intensified this week, a deadly car bomb exploded Thursday morning in the Syrian capital killing more than 50 people. The number of casualties could not be immediately confirmed by ABC News, but charred, bloodied bodies can be seen in videos from the scene of the blast.

Syrian activists tell ABC News that 59 people were killed, while Syria State TV reported that 53 people were killed and more than 200 wounded.

WARNING: Graphic Images (Credit: Syrian State TV)

Videos from Damascus suburbs show a huge plume of black smoke rising from the city center.

(Credit: Youtube/Bab Srejah)

Activists told ABC News that at least two other explosions followed the initial car bomb in the Mazraa district, at least one in the northwest neighborhood of Barzeh reportedly targeting an intelligence building called the 211th Intelligence Branch.

(Image Credit: YouTube/Barza Damascus)

Syrian State TV reports that two mortars were fired at the Syrian Army General Command Building, while the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that two mortars landed at the General Staff building in downtown Damascus. No casualties have been reported and Syrian State TV said the building was under construction and empty at the time of attack.

The following video purports to show the Free Syrian Army launching rockets at the Syrian Army General Command Building.

Credit: Youtube/The Banner of Islam

The car bomb, the day's deadliest explosion took place near a security checkpoint on al-Thawra Street in the central Mazraa neighborhood of Damascus, reportedly near the ruling Ba'ath Party headquarters.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that cars up to 900 feet away were badly damaged, suggesting a large blast radius.

Russia's Itar-Tass news agency quoted a diplomat saying the nearby Russian Embassy compound "has really been damaged. … The windows are shattered."

And later, the Russian Foreign Ministry weighed in on Twitter.

Syria's state news agency Sana reported the explosion "took place in a densely populated area near the crossroad of main streets, killed and injured a large number of civilians," adding that students from a nearby school were among the casualties.

Both the opposition and the regime blamed "terrorists" for the attack. In a statement posted on Facebook, the main opposition body, the Syrian National Coalition stressed that "any acts targeting civilians with murder or human rights violations are criminal acts that must be condemned regardless of the perpetrator or the justification."

Meanwhile, the Syrian Foreign and Expatriates Ministries penned letters to the UN blaming the attack on "al-Qaeda-linked armed terrorist groups which receive material, logistic, media and political coverage from some regional and foreign countries."

Earlier this week, mortar shells fell near President Bashar al Assad's Tishreen Palace just north of Damascus and today's explosions are yet another sign that the physical battle is creeping into the capital city of 1.7 million after nearly two years.

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