At least 60 people were killed, including 25 Shi’ite fighters, and dozens wounded on Sunday by a car bomb and two suicide bombers in a district of Damascus where Syria’s holiest Shi’ite shrine is located, a monitor said.
Sunni fundamentalist Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, according to Amaq, a news agency that supports the group. It said two operations “hit the most important stronghold of Shi’ite militias in Damascus”.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the casualties were expected to rise from the suicide attacks in Sayeda Zeinaba, a district of southern Damascus where the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and other Iraqi and Iranian militias have a strong presence.
Rami Abdulrahman, head of the British-based Observatory, said the suicide bombers had targeted a military bus carrying Shi’ite militias who were changing guard there.
The explosions occurred as representatives of Syria’s government and its divided opposition began convening in Geneva for the first U.N.-mediated peace talks in two years.
Syrian Ambassador Bashar Jaafari, head of the government delegation at Geneva, said the blasts in Damascus just confirmed the link between what the government says are a Saudi-led and funded Islamist “opposition” and terrorism.
State television showed footage of burning buildings and wrecked cars in the neighborhood.