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IS claims triple bomb attack near Damascus shrine

At least 71 people reported dead and dozens wounded in three explosions near Shia shrine of Sayyida Zeinab, south of Syrian capital
The scene of the blasts near the Sayyida Zeinab shrine (AFP)

At least 71 people were killed in three bombings claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group near the Shia Sayyida Zeinab shrine south of the Syrian capital Damascus, AFP reported.

State news agency Sana said 100 others were wounded in a car bomb attack and two suicide bombings on Sunday, citing an interior ministry source. 

Reuters reported 60 dead, including 25 pro-government fighters.

AFP said the blasts caused a huge amount of damage, shattering windows and ripping a large crater in the road.

Smoke rose from the wrecks of more than a dozen cars and a bus damaged in the blasts, as ambulances ferried away the wounded and firefighters worked to put out blazes.

The Sayyida Zeinab mosque contains the grave of a granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad and is particularly revered as a pilgrimage site by Shia Muslims.

It has been targeted before, including in February 2015, when two suicide attacks killed four people and wounded 13 at a checkpoint near the shrine.

Also that month, a blast ripped through a bus carrying Lebanese Shia pilgrims headed to Sayyida Zeinab, killing at least nine people, in an attack claimed by al-Qaeda affiliate, the al-Nusra Front.

The IS group claimed it carried out the attack on Sunday. In a statement the group said two of its fighters had detonated suicide bombs near the shrine.

"Two soldiers of the caliphate carried out martyrdom operations in a den of the infidels in the Sayyida Zeinab area, killing nearly 50 and injuring around 120," the group said.

Al-Qaeda and IS have long regarded the worship of such shrines as idolatry and they have frequently been the target of bomb attacks.

Shia group Hezbollah's original entry into the Syrian war was partly justified by the need to protect shrines.

A delegation including senior US diplomat Brett McGurk met with members of a Kurd-Arab alliance fighting the Islamic State inside Syria on Saturday, Kurdish sources said on Sunday, according to AFP.

The visit appeared to be the first by a senior US government official inside Syrian territory.