Islamic State group claims bombings near Syria Shiite shrine; at least 50 killed, 100 injured

State news agency SANA had earlier reported 30 people killed in the three blasts, which it said were caused by a car bomb and two suicide bombers.

Islamic State group claims bombings near Syria Shiite shrine; at least 50 killed, 100 injured
Picture for representational purpose

Damascus: The Islamic State group on Sunday claimed responsibility for bombings near a revered Shiite shrine outside the Syrian capital Damascus that killed at least 45 people.

In a statement circulated on social media, the jihadist group said two of its members had detonated suicide bombs near the Sayyida Zeinab shrine.

"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," the group said.

Syrian state media earlier reported 45 people had been killed and 110 injured in the attacks, which it said involved a car bomb and two suicide bombers.

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

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

An AFP photographer at the scene said the blasts caused massive damage, shattering windows and ripping a huge crater in the road.

Smoke rose from the twisted carcasses of more than a dozen cars and a bus damaged in the blasts, as ambulances ferried away the wounded and firefighters worked to put out blazes started by the bombings.

The shrine south of the capital 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 war, and has been targeted in previous bomb attacks.

In February 2015, two suicide attacks killed four people and wounded 13 at a checkpoint near the shrine.

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 Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.

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

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

The Britain-based monitor said 47 people were killed in the blasts, including a car bomb that targeted a checkpoint, and included non-Syrian Shiite militants without specifying their nationalities.

Hezbollah is a staunch ally of Syria`s President Bashar al-Assad and has dispatched fighters to bolster his troops against the uprising that began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

Early on, the group justified its intervention in Syria by citing the threat to Sayyida Zeinab.

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

It has evolved into a complex, multi-front war, involving rebels, jihadists, regime and allied forces, Kurds and air strikes by both government ally Russia and a US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group.