Twin bombs targeting Shiite pilgrims on Saturday killed 46 people in Damascus, most of them Iraqis, a monitoring group said, in one of the bloodiest attacks in the Syrian capital.
There have been periodic bomb attacks in Damascus, but the stronghold of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has been largely spared the destruction faced by other major cities in six years of civil war.
A roadside bomb detonated as a bus passed and a suicide bomber blew himself up in the Bab al-Saghir area, which houses several Shiite mausoleums that draw pilgrims from around the world. (AFP)
The atrocities in Brussels happen almost daily on the streets of Baghdad, Aleppo and Damascus. Western missiles and Isis bombs kill more innocents in a week than die in Europe in a year. The difference is the media response. A dead Muslim is an unlucky mutt in the wrong place at the wrong time. A dead European is front-page news.
Simon Jenkins, ‘The scariest thing about Brussels is our reaction to it’, The Guardian
40 Iraqis killed in suicide bombing near Shia shrine in Damascus
A double bomb attack targeting Shi'ite pilgrims in Damascus killed at least 40 Iraqis and wounded 120 more who were going to pray at a nearby shrine, the Iraqi foreign ministry said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Saturday’s attack, which the Hezbollah-run al-Manar TV station said had been carried out by two suicide bombers.
Footage broadcast by Syrian state TV showed two badly damaged buses with their windows blown out. The area was splattered with blood and shoes were scattered on the ground.
The pilgrims had been brought to visit the nearby Bab al-Saghir cemetery, named after one of the seven gates of the Old City of Damascus Credit: EPA/SANA
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been supported in the country’s war by Shia militias from countries including Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon.
The attack took place at a bus station where the pilgrims had been brought to visit the nearby Bab al-Saghir cemetery, named after one of the seven gates of the Old City of Damascus.
The second blast went off some 10 minutes after the first at around 10 a.m. (0800 GMT), inflicting casualties on civil defence workers who had gathered to tend to the casualties, the Damascus correspondent for al-Manar told the station by phone.
The pilgrims were due to pray at the cemetery after visiting the Sayeda Zeinab shrine just outside Damascus, he said.
At least 44 people were killed in the attack, according to a monitoring group, but the toll is likely to rise Credit: AFP PHOTO / Louai Beshara
Sayeda Zeinab - the granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammad - is venerated by Shi'ites and her shrine is a site of mass pilgrimage for Shi'ites from across the world. It has also been a magnet for Shi'ite militiamen in Syria.
Iran has backed Assad in the conflict that erupted in 2011. The Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah is also fighting in support of Assad.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based organisation that reports on the war, said the number of dead was at least 44. The death toll was expected to rise due to the many serious injuries, it added.
Last June, Islamic State claimed responsibility for bomb attacks near the Sayeda Zeinab shrine. The last bomb attack in Damascus was in January, when a suicide bomber hit the heavily police Kafr Sousa neighbourhood, killing at least seven people.