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Bombers kill eight outside shrine near Syrian capital

DAMASCUS (AFP): A double bomb attack outside a Shia shrine near Syria’s capital killed at least eight people Saturday, in the latest in repeated deadly strikes on the revered site, state media said.

The official SANA news agency said a suicide bomber and a car bomb struck at the entrance to the Sayyida Zeinab shrine, which is revered by Shias around the world.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group, reported a higher toll of at least 12 people killed and 30 wounded in the blasts.

The shrine, around 10 kilometres (six miles) south of the centre of Damascus, is heavily guarded by pro-government forces but has still been the target of several militant attacks, including those claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.

Syria’s official Al-Ikhbariya channel showed images from the scene of burned-out cars billowing with plumes of black smoke.

Firefighters battled to extinguish the flames as shop signs lay in the street.

The last attack on Sayyida Zeinab on April 25 killed at least seven and wounded dozens.

A string of IS bombings near the shrine in February left 134 people dead, most of them civilians, according to the Observatory.

And in January, another attack claimed by IS killed 70 people.

Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah cited the threat to Sayyida Zeinab as a principal reason for its intervention in Syria’s civil war on the side of President Bashar al-Assad.

The shrine contains the grave of Sayyida Zeinab, a venerated granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), and is renowned for its glistening golden, onion-shaped dome.