Middle East

Syria: Bombings rock Damascus suburb Sayyida Zeinab

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Media captionFootage 'shows Damascus attack'

At least 12 people have been killed in suicide bomb attacks on a suburb of Damascus which is home to Syria's holiest Shia shrine, state media say.

Islamic State group said three militants - two carrying explosives belts and one with a car bomb - carried out the attacks in Sayyida Zeinab, 10km (six miles) south of the centre.

At least 55 other people were wounded.

Sayyida Zeinab, a predominantly Shia area, has been a frequent target of attacks from jihadi groups.

The Sunni IS group says it was behind at least two other bombings in the district earlier this year that killed more than 150 people.

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Syrian state media said Sayyida Zeinab was hit by two blasts on Saturday - a suicide attack at the entrance to the district and then a car bomb attack in al-Teen street, not far from the shrine.

There were a number of women and children among the casualties, and some of the injuries were serious, Sana news agency said.

The IS-affiliated Amaq news agency later said three IS militants carried out the attacks.

The golden-domed Sayyida Zeinab shrine contains the grave of one of the Prophet Muhammad's grand-daughters, and continues to draw many Shia pilgrims despite the civil war.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption A car bomb was used for one of the attacks
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Security forces and members of the public inspect the site of the blast
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A man clears a room damaged in the attacks, with a picture of President Assad in the background
Image copyright AP
Image caption Sayyida Zeinab is the holiest Shia Muslim shrine in Syria

Shia fighters from around the region have joined the conflict in Syria on the grounds that they wish to protect the shrine from the civil war, observers say.

The Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah has cited it as a key reason that it chose to fight on the side of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

But this has made this suburb a prime target for the government's enemies, including IS, the BBC's Alan Johnston says.

More than 250,000 people have died and 11 million have fled their homes in more than five years of civil war in Syria.

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