A bomb explodes in a military bus in the Syrian capital, killing 1

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — A bomb attached to a bus carrying Syrian troops to Damascus exploded Tuesday morning, killing one soldier and injuring 11, state television reported.

The blast happened during rush hour at a customs roundabout near Umayyad Square, the capital’s landmark, according to the report. He gave no further details. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Such attacks have taken place in Damascus in recent months during an otherwise calm period in the capital. Government forces captured the rebel-held eastern neighborhoods of the city in 2018.

Government forces now control much of Syria with help from President Bashar Assad’s allies Russia and Iran, while rebels are mainly cornered in the country’s northwest province of Idlib. US and Turkish troops, meanwhile, are deployed in parts of the north and east of the country.

In October, two bombs attached to a bus carrying Syrian troops exploded in Damascus, killing 14 people. It was one of the deadliest attacks in the capital in years. A little-known group calling itself the Qasioun Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack at the time.

In recent years, attacks in Damascus have been rare. One of the last major explosions to take place was in 2017 – when suicide bombers hit a court office building and a restaurant, killing nearly 60 people. The attacks were claimed by militants of the Islamic State group.

The extremist organization has held no territory in Syria since 2019, but it continues to pose a threat with sleeper cells, mostly hiding in the vast Syrian desert.

IS fighters attacked Syrian troops in central and eastern Syria. The extremist group has also carried out attacks on US-backed Kurdish-led fighters in the northeast, including a raid on a prison in late January that led to 10 days of fighting in the city of Hassakeh. The clash left nearly 500 dead.

The conflict in Syria began in March 2011 and has killed nearly half a million people, displaced half of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million and left large parts of the country destroyed.