ISIS deadly bomb explosions kill scores in Sayeda Zainab, Damascus

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The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group (ISIS) claimed responsibility for suicide and car bomb blasts that struck a Damascus suburb Saturday near Syria’s holiest Shia Muslim shrine. A monitoring group said at least 20 people were killed.

State television showed debris, mangled cars and wrecked shops in a main commercial thoroughfare near the Sayeda Zeinab shrine, in an area where at least three bomb attacks claimed by ISIS have killed and wounded scores of people this year.

The ultra-hardline Sunni militants of ISIS, whose many foes are advancing on a number of fronts in both Syria and Iraq, are avowed enemies of Shia, whom they consider a heretical group within Islam.

State media said at least eight people were killed. But the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the death toll had risen to at least 20, including at least 13 civilians, with the other victims coming from pro-government militias.

It said the number was expected to rise because many of the scores of wounded people were in critical condition.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group, also known as Daesh, said two of its suicide bombers had blown themselves up and operatives had detonated an explosives-laden car, according to the ISIS-affiliated Amaq news agency.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said Washington condemned the attack in the strongest terms. “This terrorist act demonstrates once again the inhumanity and brutality of all that Daesh does and all it stands for,” he said.

Residents and Syrian army members inspect a damaged site after a suicide and car bomb attack in the southern Damascus suburb of Sayeda Zeinab on June 11, 2016. (Omar Sanadiki/Reuters)

The Sayeda Zeinab shrine is a magnet for thousands of Iraqi and Afghan Shia militia recruits who go there before being assigned to front lines, where they fight against the Sunni rebel groups trying to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Almost every Shia militia fighter bears insignia on his combat fatigues with the words “For your sake, Sayeda Zeinab.”

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