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Syria's Bar Association chief: 16 lawyers killed in blast

By ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: March 16, 2017

DAMASCUS, Syria — Sixteen lawyers were among the dozens killed in a suicide attack that struck the main judicial building in the capital Damascus, the head of Syria's Bar Association said Thursday. Meanwhile, blood stains and damage from the attack a day earlier were swiftly removed as people returned to work.

Nizar Skeif told The Associated Press that targeting the Justice Palace aimed to "undermine the Syrians' morale and stir anarchy and terror." In addition to the judicial building, suicide bombers also hit a restaurant in Damascus, with both attacks killing at least 30 people and spreading fear across the capital.

Skeif said no judges were killed in the attack.

The bombings were the latest in a spate of deadly explosions and suicide attacks targeting government-controlled areas in Syria and its capital. The attacks reflect a renewed effort by militants to use insurgent tactics against President Bashar Assad's forces in a bid to recover lost momentum.

On Thursday, Syrian state TV reported live from the room where the suicide attacker struck, showing that blood stains had been removed from the floor and the damage was mostly fixed.

"They wanted ... the justice department to stop its mission and for the state and its institutions to stop but they failed," Justice Minister Najm al-Ahmad told state TV. "We regret the fall of martyrs yesterday."

Al-Ahmad added that some lawyers and judges came to work as usual on Thursday to send a message that "justice will continue because this is a good way to respond to those who wanted life to come to a standstill in our country."

Syria's attorney general, Ahmad al-Sayed, said those who carried out the attack "wanted the law of the jungle to prevail rather than have state law.'"

U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura condemned the attack, which coincided with the sixth anniversary of the Syrian conflict. The civil war has killed some 400,000 people, wounded more than a million and displaced half the country's population. De Mistura called for an end to all attacks on civilians, according to a statement released by his office.

U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria Ali Al-Za'tari said in a statement that he regretted the bombings at the Justice Palace and the restaurant and called for "peace to prevail in Syria that will eventually defeat terrorism."
 

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