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Rare Suicide Bombing in Syria's Capital Targets Bus Full of Lebanese Pilgrims

The al Nusra Front claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that killed six people Sunday in Damascus, mainly Shiite Muslims visiting from Lebanon.

by Meredith Hoffman
Feb 1 2015, 8:45pm

Image via YouTube/SANA

A suicide bomb that targeted a bus full of Lebanese Muslim pilgrims killed at least six people Sunday in Damascus.

The al Nusra Front, a Syrian militant group linked to al Qaeda, immediately took responsibility for the attack on Shiite Muslims headed to a shrine, Reuters reported. The attacker reportedly detonated five kilograms of explosives by the bus, which was parked by the popular Hamidiyeh market in Syria's capital. 

Video footage captured the gutted vehicle moments after the bomb exploded, injuring at least 20 people.

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The al Nusra Front claimed on social media that a young Saudi member was the bomber in the attack, which mainly killed citizens of Southern Lebanon, the Lebanese publication Naharnet reported.

"One of al Nusra Front's heroes successfully entered a bus that was transporting a huge number of Shias coming from Al-Dahya Al-Janobya in Lebanon, where the hero bombed his explosive belt among the group," the al Nusra Front's tweet said, according to a local publication.

While the extremist group has targeted the city's outskirts, the attack on the heavily policed area in the capital's center was rare and shocking, and was confirmed as a "terrorist attack" by Syria's state media.

The explosion followed a pledge made just hours earlier by Syria's prime minister to stop the spread of terrorism.

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Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi told parliament Sunday that the nation would strive to "flush out all terrorists" this year. He said that he would not allow Syria's enemies to "destroy the land of religions and the cradle of civilizations," and that he would "back all initiatives to fight global terrorism," Reuters reported.

More than 200,000 people have died since Syria's civil war began in 2011, and about 3 million people have fled the country. In January 2015 alone, 2,683 people died, 750 of them civilians, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. At least six people were also killed by explosions Sunday in Aleppo city.

Follow Meredith Hoffman on Twitter: @merhoffman