Islamic State claims responsibility for bombings near Damascus Shiite shrine
An Iraqi Shiite woman visits a Shiite Shrine in Damascus on April 17, 2005 in Damascus, Syria. Photograph: (Getty)
Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for car and suicide bomb blasts that killed at least eight people and injured scores in a suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus today, the IS-affiliated Amaq news agency said.
The Sayeda Zeinab suburb contains Syria's holiest Shiite shrine and 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.
Amaq news agency said that in today's attack, militants detonated an explosives-laden car in Sayeda Zeinab while two suicide bombers blew themselves up nearby. Syrian state media showed footage of wide-scale damage in a busy marketplace.
A Shiite religious cleric said on the state-run Ikhbariyah TV channel that the car bomb blast was not far from the shrine area in the main al-Taen street.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, however, said the death toll was at least nine. The heavily garrisoned area is a well known stronghold of Lebanon's powerful Shiite Hezbollah group, a major backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Thousands of Iraqi and Afghan Shiite militia recruits, who volunteer to fight against the Sunni rebel groups trying to bring down Assad's government, normally come to the area before being sent to frontlines across Syria.
They say they come to Syria to defend the Sayeda Zeinab shrine from radical Sunni extremists.