Middle East News
Blast kills at least four on Iranian bus in Damascus (Roundup)
Dec 3, 2009, 12:40 GMT
Damascus - At least four people were killed by a blast that ripped off the back of a bus full of Iranian pilgrims at a petrol station on the outskirts of Damascus on Thursday morning, doctors and witnesses said.
Doctors at the nearby Imam Khomeini hospital and police at the scene told the German Press Agency dpa that the Iranian bus driver and three Syrian workers at the petrol station were killed in the explosion, which took place near the shrine to the Shiite saint Sayeda Zainab, the granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammed.
In remarks carried by the government's SANA news agency, Syrian Interior Minister Said Mohammed Sammur said the explosion had been caused by a fault in an air pump used to inflate tyres. Police quickly cleared away the debris and the bus.
The bus was full of Iranian pilgrims on their way to visit the shrine, witnesses said.
Al-Jazeera TV initially reported at least 10 people had been killed in the blast, and witnesses spoke of body parts on the ground. SANA reported only three confirmed deaths.
A nurse at Imam Khomeini hospital said the blast had smashed windows in the hospital and had damaged one of the building's walls.
Local shopkeeper Abu Khaled al-Husseini said most of the shops in the neighbourhood had not yet opened, but that he saw the commotion because he was busy cleaning the shop and preparing to receive customers.
The district is a common pilgrimage site for Iranian Shiite Muslims. Seventeen people were killed in the same district last September in a blast blamed on the group Fatah al-Islam.
Thursday's explosion took place soon after Saeed Jalili, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council and the country's nuclear negotiator, arrived in Damascus for talks with top Syrian officials.
Speaking after meeting with Jalili on Thursday afternoon, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Foreign Minister Walid al-Moalem reaffirmed their support for Iran's 'right' to nuclear technology.
Al-Moalem said Syria would support Iran if it chose to enrich uranium to 20 per cent, as Iran has threatened to do if talks with the West fail.