BEIRUT (CBSNEwYork/AP) — An al-Qaida-linked group has claimed responsibility for twin blasts near holy shrines frequented by Shiites in the Syrian capital Damascus that killed at least 40 people.
The Levant Liberation Committee said in a statement Sunday that the attack was carried by two of its suicide attackers, claiming that they targeted pro-Iranian and pro-government militiamen.
Syrian 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 Damascus’ most ancient and is where several prominent religious figures are buried.
Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar visited the wounded in local hospitals. He said 40 were killed and 120 were wounded. He said the attacks targeted civilians, including Arab visitors, who were touring area’s shrines.
The al-Qaida-linked group said the blasts were a message to Iran — a main backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The attacks came two weeks after members of the same group stormed two different security offices in the central city of Homs, killing and wounding scores of people, including a top Syrian security official.
A similar attack in Damascus last year targeted one of the most revered Shiite shrines and was claimed by Islamic State militants.
Bab al-Saghir is one of the seven gates of the old city of Damascus and houses a cemetery where a number of early Islam religious figures, including family members of Prophet Muhammad and figures revered by Shiites, are buried.
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