Carnage in the heart of Damascus


Rescue teams and security forces inspect the scene of a deadly car bomb explosion which rocked central Damascus on April 8, 2013.
AFP Photo/Louai Beshara

by Louai Bechara


It was an ordinary day in Damascus: we woke up to the sound of bombs falling on not-so-distant suburb, and then dropped our kids off at school without the comforting certainty that we would see them again. It has been like that for almost a year now, except recently things have gotten worse: A few days earlier, a technician in the AFP bureau was injured when a bomb exploded near his car. 

After taking my children to school I threaded my way through a series of checkpoints to the office,  where my colleagues Rim Haddad and Georges Boustani were already on the job. I sat at my desk and put my camera bag next to me and started reading the news. Suddenly  there was a huge blast. Something fell on my head. I heard people screaming as a cloud of dust engulfed the office and shattered glasses covered the floor.

Rescue teams recover bodies from the scene of a car bomb explosion which rocked central Damascus on April 8, 2013.
AFP Photo/Louai Beshara

I checked my body and my head to see if I was injured, and then checked to see if my colleagues were OK. Nobody was bleeding.

The next step, I then realized, was to relocate to a less exposed place and to take my cameras with me. We left the office, fearing another explosion. We didn’t know at that point whether the blast had been caused by a mortar shell or a car bomb. I positioned myself in a corner with a long lens where I could see the ground zero of the explosion and -- confident that I could not be spotted from outside -- I started taking pictures.

A severely wounded man lies on the ground as security forces inspect the scene of a deadly car bomb explosion which rocked central Damascus on April 8, 2013.
AFP Photo/Louai Beshara

I later went down to the entrance of the building and took more pictures from behind the main gate. Being the only photographer on the scene would have raised suspicion, so I stayed inside the building until I saw the crew from the official Syrian TV arrive on the scene. I stepped out, joined them and started shooting with a wide lens.       

It is very difficult to concentrate on your work when you just escaped death and you are walking among dead bodies, injured neighbors and flaming plam trees.

The suicide bombing on April 8 was the first of its kind in the center of the capital. It left 15 dead and more than 50 people injured.

Smoke billows from burnt vehicles at the scene of a deadly car bomb explosion which rocked central Damascus on April 8, 2013.
AFP Photo/Louai Beshara