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Syria interior minister wounded in recent blast, to be treated in Beirut

By AP - Dec 19,2012 - Last updated at Dec 19,2012

BEIRUT — Syria’s interior minister suffered a serious back injury in the bombing of his ministry last week and was brought to Beirut on Wednesday for treatment, Lebanese security officials said.

It was the first confirmation that Interior Minister Mohammed Shaar was wounded in the December 12 bombing in the capital Damascus that killed several people and wounded more than 20. 

At the time, state-run Syrian TV said he was not hurt. The security officials asked that their names not be used because they were not authorised to speak publicly.

Also Wednesday, government forces were carrying out a broad offensive against rebels trying to topple the regime in the suburbs of Damascus, state media reported. The state-run SANA news agency said that troops have killed “scores of terrorists” — the government term for the rebels.

The suburbs of the capital have been opposition strongholds since the uprising started. 

The rebels have recently made significant advances in the area, capturing air bases and military installation and clashing with a pro-government Palestinian group for control of the Yarmouk refugee camp, located in the southern part of the capital.

Massive bombings like the one that struck the interior ministry have been a trademark of Islamic radicals fighting alongside the Syrian rebels, raising concerns about the extremists’ role in the civil war.

Rebels have targeted the centre of Damascus with bomb attacks in the past, most dramatically in July when they detonated explosives inside a high-level crisis meeting in Damascus that killed four top regime officials, including Assad’s brother-in-law and the defence minister.

Activists estimate more than 40,000 people have been killed since the conflict erupted in March 2011.

SANA said Wednesday’s fighting was taking place in the capital’s southern outskirts of Daraya, Harasta, Douma and Hajar Aswad, an area neighbouring the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk.

Most of the fighting on Wednesday was concentrated on surrounding districts outside the camp, said the Britain-based opposition activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The battle to bring down the Assad regime has forced some three million Syrians from their homes, according to a new estimate. Cold, wet winter weather is making life increasingly difficult for the displaced. Among those who left their homes are more than 500,000 who fled to neighbouring countries.

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