A double bomb attack targeting Shia 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 today.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for today’s attack, which the Shia jihadist 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.
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has been supported in the country’s war by a wide array of Iranian-sponsored Shia jihadist groups and militias hailing from countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan 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 ten minutes after the first, 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.
Sayeda Zeinab – the granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammad – is loved by the Sunnis but venerated by the Shia and her alleged shrine is a site of mass pilgrimage for Shia from across the world. It has also been a magnet for Shia militiamen in Syria.
Iran has backed Al-Assad in the conflict that erupted in 2011, and has directed forces responsible for the mass killings of Syrian Sunnis. Last June, Daesh claimed responsibility for bomb attacks near the shrine.
The Lebanese Shia jihadist group Hezbollah, also an Iran proxy, is also fighting in support of Al-Assad.