Bahrain Mirror (AFP): A car bomb killed at least seven people yesterday near the Shiite shrine of Sayyida Zeinab, south of the Syrian capital Damascus, state television reported.
The bomb struck Al-Diyabiyah, a town that serves as one of the gateways for the many pilgrims from around the world who visit the holy site. Another 20 people were wounded, state news agency SANA said.
The Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for the bomb attack later.
The shrine contains the grave of Zeinab, a venerated granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammed, and is known for its golden onion-shaped dome.
The bomb struck a checkpoint near a construction site and left a small crater in the pavement.
One of the guards manning the checkpoint said his bomb detector began beeping when a pickup truck pulled up. "We stopped the car at the checkpoint... When we began doing a manual search, they detonated the car. My colleagues were killed," he said.
The windows of a small hotel across from the checkpoint were shattered by the blast.
The hotel is mostly occupied by displaced Syrians from Fuaa and Kafraya, two Shiite-majority towns in the northwest that are under siege by Islamist rebels.
One woman who had fled Kafraya said her young daughter, who had been traumatized by frequent rocket fire on their hometown, thought the blast was a mortar round hitting the hotel.
The area around the shrine, which is heavily secured with checkpoints hundreds of meters away to prevent vehicles from approaching, has been hit by Sunni extremists of the Islamic State group several times this year.
A string of IS bombings near the shrine in February left 134 people dead, most of them civilians. In January, another attack claimed by IS killed 70 people.
Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah cited the threat to Sayyida Zeinab as a principal reason for its intervention in the civil war on the side of President Bashar Assad.
More than 270,000 people have been killed and millions more been forced to flee their homes since the conflict erupted in 2011.