DAMASCUS (Reuters) - A blast ripped through a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims in Damascus on Thursday, killing at least three people in an incident Syria said was an accident and not a terrorist attack.
“There was no terrorism factor behind the bus incident,” Syrian Interior Minister Said Sammour said. “The bus entered a petrol station to have one of its burst tires inflated and the tire exploded. Three people were killed.”
Witnesses said earlier a bomb had hit the bus near the Shi’ite shrine of Sayyeda Zainab, killing six people and destroying the rear of the bus and causing damage to nearby buildings.
“Body parts are still scattered around the bus,” one of the witnesses told Reuters from the Sayyeda Zainab area in Damascus.
The blast took place as Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, was visiting Damascus for meetings with Syrian officials.
Syria has been hit by bomb attacks in recent years. A car bomb attack on a security complex near Damascus airport killed 17 people in September 2008. That attack was blamed on Lebanon-based Islamist militant group with links to al Qaeda.
Syrian security forces deployed in the area, a popular destination for Shi’ites from Iran and Lebanon, and were investigating the blast.
Bomb attacks, along with a series of attacks against targets in Syria in the last three years, including U.S. and Israeli raids, has shaken the image of stability in a country that has recently emerged from international isolation.
Editing by Samia Nakhoul