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A car bomb exploded in central Damascus on Monday causing deaths and injuries, Syrian state television reported, with an AFP correspondent saying intense gunfire followed the blast.
"Terrorists detonate car bomb between Sabaa Bahrat square and Shahbander Street," the television reported, adding subsequently that preliminary information suggested that the explosion was a suicide attack.
An AFP correspondent said the blast caused extensive damage and that intense gunfire could be heard shortly afterwards. A huge plume of grey smoke rose from the scene.
Firefighters rushed to the area and were working to put out flames caused by the explosion, which state broadcaster Al-Ikhbariya said had taken place near a school, adding that children were believed to be among the dead and wounded.
Several cars in the area were set ablaze by the blast, which damaged AFP's Damascus office, blowing out the windows. No staff were injured.
The explosion occurred near the Syrian central bank, and security forces and the army quickly moved into the area to prevent people from approaching the scene of the attack.