IS bombings near Hazrat Zeinab shrine kill 60


Web Desk: Bombings claimed by the Islamic State group killed more than 60 people and wounded dozens on Sunday near a revered shrine outside the Syrian capital Damascus.

The blasts, which came as the UN’s Syria envoy struggled to convene fresh peace talks in Geneva, tore a massive crater in the road, overturning and mangling cars and a bus and shattering windows.

Syrian state media said more than 50 people had been killed in three blasts near the Sayyida Zeinab (RA) shrine, with some 100 people wounded. Official news agency SANA said the first blast was caused by a car bomb that detonated at a bus station near the shrine.

It said two suicide bombers then set off their explosive belts when people gathered at the scene.

An AFP photographer said the explosions damaged the facade of a nearby building, scorching all of its six storeys.

In the aftermath of Sunday morning’s attack, smoke rose from the twisted carcasses of more than a dozen cars and a bus, as ambulances ferried away the wounded and fire-fighters worked to put out blazes.

In a statement circulated on social media, IS claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying two of its members had detonated suicide bombs.

“Two soldiers of the caliphate carried out martyrdom operations in a den of the infidels in the Hazrat Sayyida Zeinab (RA) area, killing nearly 50 and injuring around 120,” it said.

The area around the shrine has been targeted in previous bomb attacks, including in February 2015 when two suicide attacks killed four people and wounded 13 at a checkpoint.

Also that month, a blast ripped through a bus carrying Lebanese Shia pilgrims headed to Hazrat Sayyida Zeinab (RA), killing at least nine people, in an attack claimed by al Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.

The area around the shrine is heavily secured with regime checkpoints set up hundreds of metres (yards) away to prevent vehicles from getting close.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, members of Lebanon’s powerful Shia militant group Hezbollah are among those deployed at the checkpoints.

Hezbollah is a staunch ally of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and has dispatched fighters to bolster his troops against the uprising that began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

The Britain-based Observatory said 58 people were killed in Sunday’s blasts, among them 20 civilians, including children. It also said 25 non-Syrian Shia militants were among the dead, without specifying their nationalities.

More than 260,000 people have been killed in Syria’s conflict, which has also displaced upwards of half the country’s population internally and abroad.

In a new effort to find a political solution to the conflict, UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura has invited regime and opposition delegations to Geneva for fresh talks.

AFP

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