UPDATED – At least 60 people were killed and more than 120 were injured on Sunday in a triple bomb blast near the Shiite shrine of Sayyida Zeinab, south of the Syrian capital Damascus. IS took responsibility by issuing a statement. Syrian sectarianism takes another turn for the worst.
The blasts, which came as the U.N.’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 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 floors.
Sayyida Zeinab, south of Damascus, contains the grave of a granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammed and is particularly revered as a pilgrimage site by Shiite Muslims.
It has continued to attract pilgrims from Syria and beyond, particularly Shiites from Iran, Lebanon, and Iraq, throughout the nearly five-year war.
Sunni Muslim extremist groups such as IS consider Shiites to be heretics and have frequently targeted them in attacks.
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 firefighters 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 Sayyida Zeinab 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 Shiite pilgrims headed to Sayyida Zeinab, killing at least nine people, in an attack claimed by al-Qaida affiliate al-Nusra Front.
The area around the shrine is heavily secured with regime checkpoints set up hundreds of meters away to prevent vehicles from getting close.
AFP contributed to this article.