ISIS targets Sayyida Zeinab shrine in two separate attacks

Sunday 05/06/2016
Wide-scale damage

BEIRUT – At least 20 people were killed, including 13 civilians, in the twin bombings outside a Shiite shrine near Syria's capital on Saturday, a monitoring group said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 30 people were wounded in the attacks at the entrance to the Sayyida Zeinab shrine, which is revered by Shiites around the world.

The official SANA news agency said a suicide bomber and a car bomb struck at the entrance to the Sayyida Zeinab shrine, which has suffered repeated deadly strikes.

Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for the car and suicide bomb blasts, the ISIS-affiliated Amaq news agency said.

The Sayyida Zeinab suburb is a base for Shiite militant groups from Lebanon and Iraq who are on the side of President Bashar al-Assad in the country's five-year-old civil war.

The shrine, around 10 kilometres (six miles) south of the centre of Damascus, is heavily guarded by pro-government forces but has still been the target of several jihadist attacks, including those claimed by the Islamic State (ISIS) group.

Syria's official Al-Ikhbariya channel showed images from the scene of burned-out cars billowing with plumes of black smoke.

Firefighters battled to extinguish the flames as shop signs lay in the street.

The last attack on Sayyida Zeinab on April 25 killed at least seven and wounded dozens.

A string of ISIS bombings near the shrine in February left 134 people dead, most of them civilians, according to the Observatory.

And in January, another attack claimed by ISIS killed 70 people.

Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah cited the threat to Sayyida Zeinab as a principal reason for its intervention in Syria's civil war on the side of President Bashar al-Assad.

The shrine contains the grave of Zeinab, a venerated granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), and is renowned for its glistening golden, onion-shaped dome.