7 Killed in Damascus Bus Blast
At least seven people were killed when a blast ripped through a bus carrying Lebanese Shiite pilgrims in the Syrian capital Damascus on Sunday, a monitoring group said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said another 20 people were wounded in the explosion near the Souq al-Hamadiyeh neighborhood of the city, AFP said in a report. Syrian state media, which reported a toll of six dead and 19 wounded, said the blast was caused by an explosive device rather than a suicide bomber. State news agency SANA said officials had found and defused a second bomb that had been placed inside the bus before it detonated.
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said the bus had a Lebanese license plate and was carrying Shiite Muslim pilgrims visiting religious sites in Damascus.
In Beirut, an official with the Lebanese group that organized the trip said all the passengers on the bus were Lebanese, but could not confirm a toll.
Syrian state television showed footage from the scene of the blast, with men in military uniforms picking through the wreckage of the bus. Its front half was mostly blown off, leaving only the metal frame, and bags of belongings were strewn across the remaining seats.
Parts of Damascus have remained relatively unscathed by the fighting raging across much of Syria since an uprising erupted in March 2011. However, rebels regularly fire rockets into the capital from rear bases in the surrounding countryside, and the city has also been hit by bombings.
Despite the conflict, the road from the Lebanese border to Damascus remains relatively safe, and Lebanese Shiite pilgrims have continued to visit religious sites in Syria.
More than 200,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict started, and around half of the country's population has been displaced.