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Fighting in Damascus belies Syrian government's claim of control

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Bassem Tellawi/AP

(Read caption) Syrian security officers investigate a damaged building near the aviation intelligence department, which was attacked by one of two explosions, in Damascus, Syria, on March 17. Twin bombings struck government targets in the Syrian capital early Saturday, killing security forces and civilians, according to state-run television.

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Fighting erupted between Syria’s opposition forces and government troops in the capital today. Witnesses reported hearing heavy machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades as the rebel Free Syria Army clashed with government troops.  

The fighting reportedly took place in Mezzeh, a neighborhood that is home to a number of government security facilities, United Nations headquarters, and foreign embassies. Many government loyalists also live in the area.

Monday’s violence is the most fighting seen in Damascus since the Syrian uprising began a year ago. The clashes stand in stark opposition to claims by the Syrian government that they are in control of the capital.

“This means that the regime does not have full control of the [Mezze] area,” said Lena, a spokeswoman for the Revolution Leadership Council in Damascus, in a Skype interview with the Guardian. “It was [said] that the Free Syrian Army was carrying out a mission there, but we still don't know. We haven't heard anything from their part yet. But it seems that there might have been a defection in a building there – the political intelligence department.”

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