IS blasts kill more than 150 as US, Russia press Syria truce
Sayyida Zeinab (Syria) : A string of suicide bombings near a Shiite shrine outside Syria’s capital and in Homs claimed by jihadists have killed more than 150 people, as Washington and Moscow worked to secure a ceasefire.
The Islamic State group said it was behind the carnage. US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday said a provisional deal had been reached on the terms of a truce in Syria’s brutal five-year conflict, only for the bloodshed to intensify on the ground.
Near Damascus, a car bombing followed by two consecutive suicide attacks ripped through the area of the Shiite shrine of Sayyida Zeinab and killed 96 people according to The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Syria’s official news agency SANA, quoting a police source, said 178 people, including children, were among the wounded.
An AFP reporter said the blasts struck about 400 metres (yards) from the revered Shiite shrine containing the grave of a granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammed.
A January attack in the same area – also claimed by IS – killed 70 people.
The Observatory also reported that two car bombs killed at least 59 people and wounded dozens in the pro-regime district of Al-Zahraa in the central city of Homs.
IS said online that two suicide bombers struck in Sayyida Zeinab and two others drove explosive-packed cars into crowds in Homs.
UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura “strongly condemns” the attacks, his spokesperson said in a statement.
State television footage from Homs showed emergency workers carrying a charred body on a stretcher past devastated shops and mangled cars and minibuses.
Al-Zahraa – whose residents are mostly from the same Alawite sect of Shia Islam as Syria’s ruling clan – has been regularly targeted.
World powers, which have been pushing for a halt in Syria’s nearly five-year war, had hoped to see a truce take effect on Friday but have struggled to agree on the terms.
Yesterday, Kerry spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at least three times to try to nail down a truce.
“We have reached a provisional agreement, in principle, on the terms of the cessation of hostilities that could begin in the coming days,” Kerry said in Amman after one round of talks.