At least 46 Iraqis were killed and more than 100 others were wounded on Saturday when a twin suicide bombing targeted Shiite pilgrims in the Syrian capital, Damascus, according to Syria’s interior minister and AFP reports. Saturday’s twin bombing was one of the bloodiest attacks in the Syrian capital, a monitoring group said.
Syria State TV aired footage from the attack scene showing blood-soaked streets and several damaged buses in a parking lot, apparently where two explosive devices went off near Bab al-Saghir cemetery in Damascus’ Bab Mousalla area. The attack took place near the Bab al-Saghir cemetery, which houses Shia mausoleums and the cemetery is one of the capital’s most ancient and is where a number of early Islam religious figures, including family members of Prophet Muhammad (including his two wives) and several prominent religious figures are buried.
Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar visited the injured and casualties in local hospitals. He said 40 people had been killed and 120 others wounded in the attacks, which targeted civilians, including Arab visitors, who were frequenting the shrines in the Bab al-Saghir region. Mohammed al-Shaar didn’t elaborate, but Iraqi Shiites often visit shrines in Syria. Iranians and other Shiites from Asia are often also among the pilgrims to the area.
“There are also dozens of people wounded, some of them in a serious condition,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. State television said there were 40 dead and 120 wounded after “terrorists detonated two bombs.”
There have been conflicting reports about the number of casualties and what caused the explosions.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a roadside bomb detonated as a bus passed and a suicide bomber blew himself up in the Bab al-Saghir area, where the pilgrims had been brought to visit the area. The Observatory said at least 46 were killed in the explosions and the death toll is likely higher because dozens were wounded.
The director general of the capital’s al-Mujtahed hospital said there were 28 people dead and 45 wounded. The SANA state news agency reported that “two bombs planted by terrorists exploded near the Bab al-Saghir cemetery in Bab Musalla,” and that at least 33 were killed and more than a hundred wounded.
Arab TV Al-Mayadeen said at least 40 were killed, and the area was sealed by security after the explosions. Lebanon’s al-Manar TV quoted Syrian officials saying twin suicide attacks killed 40.
There was no immediate claim for the Saturday’s attack.
Sunni extremists from Islamic State group (IS) and Al-Qaeda frequently target Shia shrines, not only in Syria but also in neighbouring Iraq. A similar attack in Damascus last year targeted one of the most revered Shiite shrines and was claimed by the Islamic State militants.
The Fateh al-Sham front, a former al-Qaida affiliate, claimed responsibility for the January suicide bombings in the high-security Kafr Sousa district of the capital that killed 10 people including eight soldiers. And the militant group said it had targeted Russian military advisers working with the Syrian army.
Syrian army and its Russian ally and the US-led coalition fighting ISIS have repeatedly attacked Fateh al-Sham’s north-western (Syria) stronghold this year. Damascus is sometimes shelled by rebel groups who hold areas on the outskirts of the city, but bombings and suicide attacks are relatively rare.