Suicide attack kills at least 20 at Syrian shrine

ISIS militants in Damascus detonated an explosives-laden car outside the Sayyida Zeinab shrine, which is revered by Shi'ites, yesterday.
ISIS militants in Damascus detonated an explosives-laden car outside the Sayyida Zeinab shrine, which is revered by Shi'ites, yesterday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

BEIRUT • At least 20 people, including 13 civilians, were killed in suicide bombings outside a Shi'ite shrine near the Syrian capital Damascus yesterday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 30 people were wounded in the attacks at the entrance to the Sayyida Zeinab shrine, which is revered by Shi'ites around the world.

Militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack. Their news agency, Amaq, said that in the attack, militants detonated an explosives-laden car at the shrine, while two other suicide bombers blew themselves up nearby.

Syrian state media showed footage of wide-scale damage in a busy marketplace.

The area is a base for Shi'ite militant groups from Lebanon and Iraq who are on the side of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's five- year-old civil war.

Meanwhile, forces allied with Libya's unity government yesterday said they had recaptured the port of Sirte from ISIS fighters, who are now surrounded inside the city.

The fall of Sirte, the hometown of the late dictator Muammar Gaddafi, would be a major setback to the extremists, who have also lost territory in Syria and Iraq where they have declared a "caliphate".

The Libyan forces also retook a residential area in the east of Sirte, the main ISIS base in the North African country, a spokesman for the forces, Mr Rida Issa, said.

The Islamists are now encircled in an area of around 5 sq km inside the city, he said.

Brigades composed mainly of fighters from Misrata have advanced to the perimeter of Sirte's city centre after a counter-attack against ISIS last month drove the militants back along the coastal road between the two cities.

The brigades are part of an operation supported by Libya's UN- backed Government of National Accord, which arrived in Tripoli in March and has been gradually working to establish its authority.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 12, 2016, with the headline 'Suicide attack kills at least 20 at Syrian shrine'. Print Edition | Subscribe