Seventeen people were killed Saturday morning when a car bomb exploded near a security installation on the airport road in Damascus. The blast, which Syria's interior minister dubbed a "terror attack", occurred at an intersection leading to the Sit Zeinab shrine, popular with Shi'ite pilgrims from Iran and Lebanon.
According to television reports, the car was rigged with at least 200 kg (440 pounds) of explosives, and at least 14 people were injured. The reports also said that "investigations by the Terrorism Combating Unit are under way to identify the attackers."
They added that Syrian security forces have closed off the perimeter, and are currently working to discern the circumstances of the blast.
State television also quoted Interior Minister General Bassam Abdel Majeed as saying, "This is definitely a terror attack that occurred in a crowded area. This is a cowardly attack."
Witnesses said some industrial buildings about 100 meters away had shattered windows and the remains of the destroyed car were strewn on the highway.
In contrast to similar cases that took place in the country, the Syrian media has been broadcasting updated reports on the explosion and the number of the resulting casualties.
Syria has been rocked by a series of assassinations in the past months, most recently that of Hisham el-Badni, secretary to Khaled Mashaal, Hamas' political leader.
According to sources affiliated with the Syrian opposition el-Badni, who resides in Damascus, was dragged from his car in the middle of the day and shot dead.
The incident was first made public by the Reform Party of Syria, an opposition group whose members operate mostly in the United States.
The party claimed the assassination was a message from the Syrian government to Hamas, to warn the group against its continuing cooperation with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Reuters contributed to the report