Deadly blast at Syrian government building

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BEIRUT -- Three bombs collapsed walls in the Syrian Interior Ministry building yesterday in Damascus, killing at least five people, as rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad edged closer to the capital.

The blast came as more than 100 countries recognized the opposition umbrella group as the legitimate representative of Syria, a blow to Assad.

Five people were killed in the attacks Wednesday and 23 others injured, according to a statement by the Interior Ministry. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least eight people were killed, most of them soldiers, and more than 40 wounded.

Such bombings have been a trademark of Islamic radicals fighting alongside the rebels, raising concerns about the extremists' role in the civil war.

Attackers detonated two explosive devices before an explosives-laden car went off near the entrance of the Interior Ministry building. The blast knocked down walls inside the ministry building, scattering debris on the street and shattering windows in nearby structures, including at the Egyptian Embassy.

Syrian TV said the Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar and senior officials at the ministry were unharmed.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts. An al-Qaida-linked group, Jabhat al-Nusra, has claimed many deadly bombings inside Syria in the past.

The conflict started 21 months ago as an uprising against Assad, whose family has ruled for four decades. It quickly transformed into a civil war. Activists say 40,000 have been killed.

On the political front, more than 100 countries recognized a new opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people during an international meeting being held in Morocco. The United States also has declared the coalition is the "legitimate representative" of the people. This opens the way for greater humanitarian assistance to the forces battling Assad and possibly military aid.

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