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Spotlight: Damascus bombings stir up fears of rising sectarian tension
BY 2017-03-13 09:19:53

DAMASCUS, March 12 (Xinhua) -- The deadly bombings that rocked Damascus Saturday and killed 74 people, mainly Shiite Iraqi visitors, reflect the threat of terrorism and the role of the radical groups in further inflaming the sectarian tension in the war-torn Syria, analysts here said.

On Saturday, two bombings were carried out in swift succession near a cemetery in the Shaghour area in the old part of the capital Damascus.

The first explosion was carried out through an explosive device that went off near a gathering of busses carrying Shiite Iraqi visitors coming to the Bab al-Saghir cemetery to visit Shiite shrines, as part of Shiite pilgrim practices.

When the explosive device went off, passengers of nine busses gathered to see what happened, when a suicide bomber wearing bomb vest detonated himself among the crowds, killing 54 of them and wounding nearly 100 others.

Around 40 of the slain people were Iraqis, while the rest were Syrians from the area.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor group said that eight children under 18 were among those killed, as well as 11 women, and many Syrian soldiers.

It added that the death toll could likely rise due to the large number of critically wounded people.

Many of those wounded will suffer a lifetime disabilities, it added.

The bombing site was a mess, with busses overturned, with glass littered on the ground, mingled with blood stains and scattered people's belongings.

Later on, a group calling itself the Brigade of Levant Swords released a statement, claiming responsibility for the bombings, saying it has carried out "heroic operation" against two busses carrying "Shiite fighters."

It contended that those Shiite were fighters comping to take part in the battles against the Sunni rebellion in the neighborhoods of Qaboun, in northern Damascus, where the army has been on a wide-scale offensive to clear that area of rebel groups.

"We stress our full readiness to carry out any new mission, or military action that could contribute in alleviate the suffering of our people in Damascus and provide all we have got of weapons and ammunition for the sake of liberating the homeland," the statement said.

Little is known about the group, but in their statement they claimed to be part of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels fighting on the southern front, meaning southern Syria, including the capital.

The Syrian government was quick to condemn the bombings, urging the UN to do the same.

In a statement, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said the attack came in retaliation for the victories achieved by the Syrian army against terror-labeled groups such as the Islamic State (IS) and the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front.

It also said that the attack reflects the terrorist organizations' rejection of the reconciliations that have been witnessed in several areas.

That was the ministry's response, but such explosions were not new to the capital, as a Shiite school in the same area was targeted before by mortar shells, when many children got killed.

Also, the predominantly-Shiite neighborhood of Sayyida Zaynab in southern Damascus has also witnessed several deadly bombings, killing 200 people in 2016 alone.

Such bombings reflect the growing sectarian tension, which even though is largely confined to the fighting group, those Sunni rebels and the Shiite fighters backing the military forces of President Bashar al-Assad's government, but it also widen the gap between the people of the capital and elsewhere in Syria.

The targeted area in Shaghour houses a mixed population of Shiite and Sunni people, and such bombings threaten the relatively calm atmosphere among those people, even though the Sunni people have also suffered greatly from either the bombings or the mortar and rocket fire targeting the capital and other areas in Syria throughout the six-year-old war, according to observers.

Maher Ihsan, a journalist and political observer, told Xinhua that the bombings underscore the need to fight terrorism, and such incidents will put the international community ahead of a great responsibility to exert more efforts to eliminate such a terror threat that could negatively rebound on the regional and international peace.

(Editor:Li Zhaoqi) (From:xinhua)
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