A car bomb on a street in the Syrian capital of Damascus killed 17 people and injured more than a dozen others Saturday, Syrian television reported.

The TV said a car packed with 440 pounds of explosives blew up on Mahlak Street, located in a southern neighborhood of the capital near the junction to the city's international airport. Anti-terror units were investigating, it said.

Such bombings are rare in Syria, but over the last year, the country has witnessed two major assassinations. Several explosions blamed on Sunni Muslim militants opposed to Syria's secular government have also taken place over the last few years.

But Saturday's bombing was by far the largest and tested weaknesses of the government's traditionally tight security grip.

It occurred at the intersection leading to Saydah Zeinab, a holy shrine for Shiite Muslims that is frequently visited by Iranian and Iraqi pilgrims. Al-Jazeera TV reported that car bomb exploded near a Syrian intelligence post in the Sidi Kadad area.

Police sealed off the area, blocking motorists and pedestrians from approaching from where the blast occurred around 8:45 a.m.