ISIS suicide bombings near Syrian Shi'ite shrine kill 71

Crowds gathering near the site of the suicide bombings on Sunday. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the blasts, which were set off near the Sayyida Zeinab shrine in the Syrian capital of Damascus.
Crowds gathering near the site of the suicide bombings on Sunday. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the blasts, which were set off near the Sayyida Zeinab shrine in the Syrian capital of Damascus.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

BEIRUT • Bombings claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group killed 71 people and wounded dozens more on Sunday near a revered Shi'ite shrine outside the Syrian capital Damascus, a monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said 71 people were killed in two blasts near the Sayyida Zeinab shrine, including five children.

Syrian state media earlier reported more than 50 people killed and over 100 injured in what it described as three blasts.

Official news agency Sana said the first blast was caused by a car bomb that detonated at a bus station near the shrine, which both Iran and Lebanon's militant group Hizbollah have vowed to defend.

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

Sayyida Zeinab, south of Damascus, contains the grave of a granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad and is particularly revered as a pilgrimage site by Shi'ite Muslims.

It has continued to attract pilgrims from Syria and beyond, particularly Shi'ites from Iran, Lebanon, and Iraq, throughout Syria's nearly five-year brutal conflict.

The attacks came as UN-sponsored talks in Geneva were underway, though progress has been slow.

Yesterday, groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said they would meet the UN's special envoy, Mr Staffan de Mistura, after he gave them a "positive response". They had also received assurances from international backers on their demand for humanitarian relief, the lifting of sieges, and the end of attacks on civilians before coming to the negotiating table.

Talks with the Syrian regime were rescheduled to allow talks to be held first with the opposition.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2016, with the headline 'ISIS suicide bombings near Syrian Shi'ite shrine kill 71'. Print Edition | Subscribe