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DAMASCUS: Bombings claimed by the militant Islamic State (IS) group killed more than 50 people and wounded dozens near a revered shrine outside the Syrian capital Damascus on Sunday.

The blasts 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 Sayyeda Zeinab shrine, with some 100 people wounded.

Official news agency SANA said the first blast was caused by a car bomb detonated at a bus station near the shrine.

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

A photographer said the explosions damaged the facade of a nearby building, scorching all of its six storeys.


IS claims responsibility for the attack


In the aftermath of the attack, smoke rose from the twisted remains of more than a dozen cars and a bus, as ambulances ferried away the wounded and fire-fighters 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 IS personnel carried out the operations in ... the Sayyeda 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 pilgrims headed to the shrine of Sayyeda Zeinab, killing at least nine people, in an attack claimed by Al Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.

The area around the shrine is heavily secured with checkpoints set up hundreds of metres away to prevent vehicles from getting close.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, members of Lebanon’s militant group Hezbollah are among those deployed at the checkpoints.

The Britain-based Observatory said 63 people were killed in Sunday’s blasts, among them 29 civilians.

It also said 25 non-Syrian Shia militants were among the dead, without specifying their nationalities.

More than 260,000 people have been killed in Syria’s conflict, which has also displaced upwards of half the country’s population internally and abroad.

Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2016