Al Qaeda group claims bus bombing in Damascus

Hurras al Din (the “Guardians of Religion” organization, or HAD) has claimed responsibility for a bus explosion in Damascus. In a one-page statement posted on social media, the al Qaeda group says that an improvised explosive device targeted the bus, which was carrying members of the Syrian Republican Guard.

Bashar al-Assad’s state-controlled media claims that the explosion was caused by a “short circuit.” Citing a “reporter,” the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) writes that the explosion “was a result of a short circuit that led to the explosion of the fuel tank of the bus.” SANA added that driver of the bus was killed and three others were wounded.

Other sources, including jihadi social media accounts, claim that the casualty count was much higher, with upwards of 19 or more Syrian military personnel killed.

If HAD’s responsibility is confirmed, then it the attack is potentially significant. The jihadists have demonstrated little ability to strike inside the Syrian capital in recent years. Indeed, some pro-HAD accounts on social media have openly wondered if the reported bombing is a harbinger of more attacks behind enemy lines in the months to come.

Pro-al Qaeda social media channels have also shared a video from the scene. A screen shot from the video can be seen above. The images appear to match those shared by SANA.

HAD grew out of the fierce disagreements within the jihadi scene in Idlib, Syria. The group, which is headed by al Qaeda veterans, split from the larger jihadi actor, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which was formerly known as Al-Nusrah Front. HAD’s key leaders were once part of Al-Nusrah’s hierarchy.

HAD claims that the bombing in Damascus was revenge for the Assad regime’s actions in Daraa, a city in southwestern Syria.

The group is clearly trying to expand al-Qaeda’s sphere of operations inside Syria once again. In January, HAD claimed responsibility for vehicle bombing at a Russian military base in Raqqa, killing or wounding at least several people.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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