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This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA shows blood soaked streets and several damaged buses in a parking lot at the site of an attack by twin explosions in Damascus, Syria, Saturday, March 11, 2017. Twin explosions Saturday near religious shrines frequented by Shiite pilgrims in the Syrian capital Damascus killed dozens of people, Arab media and activists report. (SANA via AP)

An al-Qaida-linked group claimed responsibility for a deadly attack in Syria's capital


An al-Qaida-linked group claimed responsibility Sunday for two explosions that went off near holy shrines frequented by Shiites in the Syrian capital of Damascus. 

The Levant Liberation Committee said in a statement that the attack, which was carried out by two suicide bombers, was meant to send a message to Iran, one of the primary backers of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The attackers, who were identified as Abu Omar and Abu Aisha, targeted pro-Iranian and pro-government militiamen.

Saturday's twin blasts killed 40 people, according to Syrian government officials. However, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the death toll has increased to at least 74. 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights added that the first explosive was detonated near Bab al-Sghir Cemetery. The second was detonated after a group gathered around the site of the first explosion, sources told the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 

The Fatah al-Sham Front, al-Qaida's branch in Syria, is trying to make a statement that it is the only effective militant group to take on Assad. The group has opposed the peace talks which have taken place recently between the opposition and the government.

"Iran and its militias have, from the start of the revolution, supported the tyrannical and criminal regime and have been killing and displacing our people," the Levant Liberation Committee said in a statement. "This is a message to Iran and its militias that the right will not go wasted."

The Levant Liberation Committee is a group of several militant groups but it is dominated by Fatah al-Sham. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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