Two blasts in Damascus leave 40 killed, 120 injured

Twin bombs targeting Shiite pilgrims killed 59 people in Damascus on Saturday, a lot of them Iraqis, a monitoring group said of one of the bloodiest attacks in the Syrian capital. The Bab al-Saghir cemetery located near one of the seven gates of the Old City of Damascus.

Earlier on the day, it was reported that terrorists detonated two explosive devices near Bab al-Saghir cemetery, causing loss of lives and material damage to the cemetery and public and private properties.

No group has yet taken responsibility for the attacks, but either Isis or the newly formed Tahrir al-Sham are believed to be responsible.

The Sayyida Zeinab mausoleum to the south of Damascus, Syria's most visited Shiite pilgrimage site, has been hit by several deadly bombings during the war.

Iraqi Shiites often visit shrines in Syria, as do Iranians and other Shiites from Asia.

Damascus is sometimes shelled by rebel groups who hold areas on the outskirts of the city, but bombings and suicide attacks are relatively rare. Ministry spokesman Ahmed Jamal said buses carrying Iraqi pilgrims to the shrines were targeted.

"There are also dozens of people wounded, some of them in a serious condition", Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

Thirty-three people were killed and more than 100 injured in the explosions, which also damaged the cemetery, the agency reported.

So-called Islamic State is another Sunni extremist group that controls significant areas of Syria.

In the interview with Hong-Kong based Phoenix TV broadcast on Saturday, Mr Assad said another IS stronghold, Deir el-Zour, could be targeted in parallel.

The Syrian authorities have not published official data on the victims.

Mr Assad said all foreign troops on Syrian soil without invitation or consultation with the Syrian government are considered "invaders".

  • Jon Douglas