Former Syria al-Qaeda affiliate claim responsibility for Damascus bombing

Former Syria al-Qaeda affiliate claim responsibility for Damascus bombing
Fatah al-Sham said it targeted Shia pilgrims in the Syrian capital Damascus, in two bombings which killed scores of people.
2 min read
12 March, 2017
Damascus' Old City was rocked by more bombings on Sunday [AFP]

Syria's former al-Qaeda affiliate Fatah al-Sham said it was behind Saturday's twin bombings targeting Shia pilgrims in the centre of Damascus that killed 74 people.

"On Saturday... a twin attack was carried out by two heroes of Islam... in the centre of the capital Damascus, killing and wounding dozens," the statement said, released on Sunday.

Without elaborating, it called the bombings "a message to Iran and its militias".

Iran and the Tehran-backed Lebanese Hizballah movement are close allies of the Syrian regime.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 43 Iraqi pilgrims were among those killed when a roadside bomb detonated as a bus carrying pilgrims made its way through the Ban al-Saghir area of Damascus's famed Old City and a suicide bomber blew himself up.

The UK-based monitor said 11 bystanders and eight children were among the dead, as were 20 members of the pro-regime security forces.

State television gave a toll of 40 killed and 120 wounded by "two bombs detonated by terrorists", while Iraq's foreign ministry said around 40 of its nationals had died.

In January, Fatah al-Sham also claimed responsibility for twin suicide bombings in the high-security Kafr Sousa district of Damascus that killed 10 people, eight of them soldiers.

Damascus, stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad's regime, has been largely spared the violence that has rocked other major cities in Syria's six-year war.

But periodic bombings have targeted Shia shrines and were subsequently claimed by the Islamic State group.