Attacks hit Syria’s 2 major cities, kill 50 people

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In this photo which AP obtained from the Syrian official news agency SANA, and has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, damages are seen after a series of mortar shells hit Damascus, killing more than a dozen people and wounding scores in Syria, Tuesday, April 29, 2014. The attacks in the Syrian capital came a day after President Bashar Assad announced his candidacy for the June 3 presidential election. (AP Photo/SANA)

In this photo which AP obtained from the Syrian official news agency SANA, and has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, damages are seen after a series of mortar shells hit Damascus, killing more than a dozen people and wounding scores in Syria, Tuesday, April 29, 2014. The attacks in the Syrian capital came a day after President Bashar Assad announced his candidacy for the June 3 presidential election. (AP Photo/SANA)

In this photo which AP obtained from the Syrian official news agency SANA, and has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, doctors treat a wounded Syrian boy at a hospital in Damascus, Syria, Tuesday, April 29, 2014. A series of mortar shells slammed into central Damascus on Tuesday, killing more than a dozen people and wounding scores, state media reported. The attacks in the Syrian capital came a day after President Bashar Assad announced his candidacy for the June 3 presidential election. (AP Photo/SANA)

In this photo which AP obtained from the Syrian official news agency SANA, and has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a wounded Syrian boy lays on a hospital bed to receive treatment in Damascus, Syria, Tuesday, April 29, 2014. A series of mortar shells slammed into central Damascus on Tuesday, killing more than a dozen people and wounding scores, state media reported. The attacks in the Syrian capital came a day after President Bashar Assad announced his candidacy for the June 3 presidential election. (AP Photo/SANA)

FILE – This Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009 file photo shows Syrian President Bashar Assad, seen, during a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, unseen, at the presidency in Tehran, Iran. Syrian parliament speaker says Assad has declared his candidacy for the June 3 presidential elections. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

This photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center (AMC), which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Syrian people carry their belongings from a building that was hit by Syrian government airstrike in Aleppo , in Aleppo, Syria, Monday, April 28, 2014. Dozens of people were killed and wounded in fighting between pro-Assad forces and rebels in the northern city of Aleppo on Sunday, reported the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The fight for Aleppo is particularly important now, with analysts saying they expect Assad’s forces will try wrest as much of the city as possible before elections. (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center AMC)

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DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — A car bomb went off in the central Syrian city of Homs on Tuesday, killing 36 people just hours after a mortar attack on the capital, Damascus, killed 14, government officials and state media said.

The attacks came a day after President Bashar Assad announced his candidacy for the June 3 presidential elections, a race he is likely to win amid a raging civil war that initially started as an uprising against his rule.

A Syrian government official said the car bomb that hit Homs exploded in the city’s predominantly Alawite district of Zahra. Along with the 36 killed, 85 people were wounded in the blast, the official told The Associated Press over the telephone from Homs. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to media.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 13 people, including five children, were killed and that more than 40 were wounded in the Homs bombing. Syria state TV only said the car bomb in Homs caused “a large number” of casualties.

And in Damascus, several mortar shells slammed into the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Shaghour in the morning hours, killing 14 people and wounding 86, Syria’s official SANA news agency and state TV reported.

It was the deadliest mortar attack in the Syrian capital since the conflict began in March 2011.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the Homs and Damascus attacks Tuesday.

Rebels fighting to oust Assad from power have frequently fired mortars into the capital from opposition-held suburbs. Armed opposition groups have also attacked Syria’s cities with car bombs in the past months. An al-Qaida-linked group has previously claimed responsibility for several car bombs in the capital and other cities.

Many of the opposition-held neighborhoods around Damascus have been under a crippling government blockade for months, with no food and medicine allowed to reach trapped civilians inside.

SANA blamed the attacks on terrorists — a term used by Assad’s government for rebels.

The Observatory also reported the mortar attack in Damascus, saying 17 people were killed. The group, which tracks the conflict through a network of activists on the ground, said the death toll was likely to rise because of the many wounded.

The conflicting numbers could not immediately be reconciled but different casualty tolls are common in the immediate aftermath of large bombings.

An official at the Damascus Police Command told The Associated Press that two of the mortar shells landed near a religious school in the capital. Several students who were attending classes at the school were among those killed and wounded in the attack, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations.

Homs has been the opposition stronghold since the beginning of the uprising against Assad that erupted in March 2011. The city, Syria’s third largest, has been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in the civil war that followed the initially largely peaceful revolt.

Meanwhile,

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