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Blasts kill at least 40 at Shiite shrine in Damascus

Blasts kill at least 40 at Shiite shrine in Damascus

A twin bomb attack in Syria's capital, Damascus, has killed 40 Iraqis and wounded 120, Iraq's government says. The cemetery is one of the capital's most ancient and is where several prominent religious figures are buried.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but there are a number of militant groups in Syria who target Shiites, including the Islamic State and the Syrian affiliate of al-Qaida.

The Levant Liberation Committee, also known as Hayat Tahrir al Sham, said in a statement that the attack was carried out by two of its suicide attackers, claiming that they targeted pro-Iranian and pro-government militiamen.

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According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a roadside bomb detonated as a bus drove past and a suicide bomber blew himself up in the Bab al-Saghir area, which houses several Shia Islam mausoleums that draw pilgrims from around the world.

Saturday's attack also wounded over a hundred, majority Iraqis, according to Syrian and Iraqi officials.

Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar visited the casualties in local hospitals.

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The Foreign Ministry, in two letters to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and President of the Security Council over the blasts, said armed groups attacked "civilian buses with highly explosive devices" in Damascus causing huge fatalities.

Iraq's Foreign Ministry Ahmed Jamal says most of those killed were Iraqis visiting the Shiite shrines in the area. In spite of recent gains, the forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are stretched thin.

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.

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Asked about the deployment of 500 USA troops last week at Manbij, Assad said "any foreign troops coming to Syria without our invitation. are invaders".