Twin blasts killed at least 40 people and wounded 120 more in Damascus, Syria on Saturday, according to Iraq’s Foreign Ministry.
The double bomb attack that targeted buses full of Iraqi Shiite pilgrims who were going to pray at a nearby shrine was one of the bloodiest in the heart of the Syrian capital.
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 Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that a roadside bomb detonated as a bus passed and a suicide bomber blew himself up in the sacred cemetery that draw pilgrims from around the world to see where descendants and companions of Mohammed are buried.
The second blast went off some 10 minutes after the first, inflicting casualties on civil defense workers who had gathered to tend to the casualties, the Damascus correspondent for al-Manar told Newsweek.
The attackers used improvised explosive devices, Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Jamal said in a statement.
The cemetery is in the southern section of the old city in Damascus and is one of Syria’s largest and oldest cemeteries.
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.
— Telegraph News (@TelegraphNews) March 11, 2017
The pilgrims were due to pray at the cemetery after visiting the Sayeda Zeinab shrine just outside Damascus, he said. Sayeda Zeinab — the granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammad — is revered 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.
Sunni terror groups such as ISIS have attacked these Shiite shrines.
Last June, ISIS claimed responsibility for deadly attacks near the the Sayyida Zeynab Shiite Muslim shrine on the southern outskirts of Damascus.
The last bomb attack in Damascus was in January, when a suicide bomber hit the heavily police Kafr Sousa neighborhood, killing at least seven people.
Syria has been engulfed in a civil war for six years, and it has been marked by Sunni-Shiite sectarian conflict.
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