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Twin blasts kill 40 near religious sites in Syria’s capital

  • COURTESY SANA

    Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, speaks during an interview with Hong-Kong based Phoenix TV in Damascus today. Assad said that his military’s priority is to reach Islamic State’s de-facto capital Raqqa, where U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces are advancing.

BEIRUT >> Twin explosions Saturday near religious shrines frequented by Shiite pilgrims in the Syrian capital Damascus killed at least 40 people, Arab media and activists reported.

Syria State TV aired footage from the scene showing blood-soaked streets and several damaged buses in a parking lot, apparently where the explosions went off near Bab al-Saghir cemetery. The cemetery is one of the capital’s most ancient and is where several prominent religious figures are buried.

There were conflicting reports on what caused the explosions. State news agency SANA said 33 were killed in the explosions and more than a hundred wounded in the blasts caused by bombs placed near the cemetery.

Lebanon’s al-Manar TV quoted Syrian officials saying 40 were killed in twin suicide attacks. Arab TV Al-Mayadeen said at least 40 were killed even though the area was under tight security.

Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition monitoring group with activists on the ground, said at least 44 were killed in the explosions that targeted buses arriving near the cemetery. The Observatory said the death toll is likely higher because dozens were wounded.

A similar attack in the capital targeted one of the most revered Shiite shrine in the capital last year and was claimed by the Islamic State militants.

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