Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Dozens Killed by Bombs in Syria, Clouding UN Peace Session

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Dozens Killed by Bombs in Syria, Clouding UN Peace Session

Article excerpt

GENEVA * A triple bombing killed at least 50 people in a predominantly Shiite suburb south of the Syrian capital of Damascus on Sunday even as a U.N. mediator held his first meeting with members of the main opposition group that seeks progress on humanitarian issues before it will join formal talks on ending the five-year civil war.

The attacks were claimed by militants from the Islamic State group, and Syria's delegate to the U.N.-sponsored peace talks said the violence confirmed the connection between "terrorism" and "some political groups" a reference to those who oppose President Bashar Assad.

The blasts went off in the Damascus suburb of Sayyda Zeinab, about 600 yards from one of the holiest shrines for Shiite Muslims. Syria's state news agency SANA said that the attackers detonated a car bomb at a bus stop and that two suicide bombers then set off more explosives as rescuers rushed to the area.

State TV showed several burning cars and a scorched bus, as well as blown-out windows, twisted metal and large holes in the facade of a nearby apartment building. The golden-domed Shiite shrine itself was not damaged.

At least 50 people were killed, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said, with more than 100 wounded.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based opposition group that monitors the conflict, said at least 63 people were killed, including 25 pro-government Shiite fighters. It said the dead fighters included Syrians and foreigners.

The suburb is one of the first areas where Lebanon's Hezbollah group sent fighters in 2012 to protect it from Sunni extremists who vowed to blow up the shrine. Hezbollah and Shiite groups from Iraq are known to have fighters in the area.

A website affiliated with the Islamic State group said the attacks were carried out by members of the Sunni Muslim extremist group, which controls large areas in both Syria and Iraq.

The bombings cast a shadow over the Geneva talks, the first U.N. effort since 2014 to try to end the conflict that has killed at least 250,000 people, forced millions to flee the country, and given an opening to IS militants to capture territory. …

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