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Fatalities in twin explosions near Damascus

Stringer, AFP| Syrians check the site of a double bombing attack on June 11, 2016 outside the revered Sayyida Zeinab shrine, some ten kilometres south of the centre of Damascus.

Syrian state TV says two explosions have gone off near the Syrian capital, resulting in multiple casualties in the Sayyida Zeinab area outside Damascus.

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Syrian State TV said the blasts in the Sayyida Zeinab area just south of Damascus killed 12 people and wounded 55 others. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 20 people were killed and dozens were wounded in the two explosions.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the bombings through its Aamaq news agency, which said there were three attacks carried out by suicide bombers. Aamaq said two attackers were wearing explosive belts while the third was in a car.

Sayyida Zeinab has been a frequent target of suicide and car bombings in Syria’s civil war, now in its sixth year.

State TV aired footage from the blast site, showing several vehicles and shops on fire, and at least two buildings whose balconies, doors and windows had been destroyed. Blood stains could be seen on the debris-covered road. Fire engines rushed to the scene to extinguish fires caused by the explosions.

The blasts came as US-backed fighters in northern Syria tightened their siege on the IS group stronghold of Manbij, where tens of the thousands of civilians are trapped by the fighting. The Syria Democratic Forces, a predominantly Kurdish group, has encircled the town after capturing dozens of villages and farms near the Turkish border.

"The push toward Manbij slowed down because of fear for civilians there," said Mustafa Bali, a Syrian journalist who visited the front line. "All telecommunications with the town have been cut," he told the Associated Press by telephone.

The UN estimates that 592,700 people now live under siege in Syria, with about 452,700 of them under blockades by government forces. Lifting sieges on rebel-held areas was a key demand by the opposition during peace talks that failed earlier this year in Geneva.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)

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