Damascus: Two suicide car bombers today struck Syria`s army command headquarters, killing four guards and engulfing a key symbol of President Bashar Assad`s embattled regime in flames, state-run media and witnesses said.
The twin blasts were followed by several hours of gun battles between rebel fighters and regime forces in downtown Damascus.
A reporter for an Iranian TV channel also was killed by gunfire near the clashes, and a correspondent for another Iranian station was wounded.
The brazen rebel attacks in the heart of the Syrian capital highlighted their determination to bring down Assad as the country`s civil war intensifies.
Syria`s unrest began in March 2011 when protests calling for political change met a violent government crackdown. Many in the opposition have since taken up arms as the conflict morphed into a civil war that activists say has killed nearly 30,000 people.
Over the past few months, the rebels have increasingly targeted security sites and symbols of regime power in a bid to turn the tide in the fighting.
Rebels from the Free Syrian Army claimed responsibility for today`s bombings.
The blasts went off about 10 minutes apart, starting around 7 am, near the landmark Omayyad Square. They were heard several kilometres away.
Syrian state TV aired what it said was security camera footage of the blasts. In the first, a white van is driving on the road outside the military headquarters, then veers to the right and explodes. The second blast goes off inside the compound, with flames rising from behind trees.
Later, the army command building is seen engulfed in flames that sent huge columns of thick black smoke over Damascus for several hours.