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Two Deadly Blasts Near Holy Shrine Outside Damascus Kill At Least 12 People

Syrian civilians and soldiers gather at the scene of a double bombing attack on Saturday outside the Sayyida Zeinab shrine, which is revered by Shiites around the world, some 6 miles south of the center of Damascus, state media said.

At least 12 people were killed and 55 injured in twin bombings near a revered shrine outside Syria's capital Damascus, Syrian state media reports.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks via its Aamaq news agency but says there were actually three suicide bombings, according to The Associated Press.

The Sayyida Zeinab shrine, which is particularly sacred to Shiite Muslisms, is "a symbolic stronghold of the regime," as NPR's Alice Fordham tells our Newscast unit.

"President Bashar al-Assad is from a branch of Shiite Islam, and his allies from Lebanon, Iraq and Iran are also Shiite, and specifically cite protection of this shrine as a reason they come to fight in Syria," Alice explains.

Reuters adds that "thousands of Iraqi and Afghan Shi'ite militia recruits who volunteer to fight against the Sunni rebel groups trying to bring down Assad's government normally come to the area before being sent to the frontlines across Syria."

First, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt. Then, a car bomb exploded near the shrine, the Syrian state news wire SANA reported.

Video published by the state wire service after Saturday's attack shows black smoke billowing and burned-out cars as crowds of bystanders look on amid piles of rubble.

The area has been repeatedly attacked during Syria's war. In April, "eight people died when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive-packed vehicle at a military checkpoint in the suburb," according to the Associated Press.

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