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Syria has called a bus blast that killed at least three people Thursday an accidental tire explosion, not an act of terrorism, but unanswered questions surrounding the incident have left many questioning the official line.
The explosion occurred near a Shiite shrine to the Prophet Muhammad's granddaughter on a bus that had reportedly been carrying Iranian pilgrims to the site. It was initially suspected to be a terrorist attack because of heavy damage to the bus.
But Syria's interior minister said the explosion was caused by excessive pressure in one of the bus's tires, saying "It is not a terrorist act at all," reports Agence France-Presse. He said the blast occurred while the bus was being repaired and killed two workers and the driver, reports the news agency.
The bus was extensively damaged, and many local media outlets intially reported it was due to a bomb and had caused dozens of casualties, reports AFP.
The Los Angeles Times published a photo of the heavily damaged bus here, saying observers were puzzled by the explosion and that regional media initially reported it as targeting and killing Iranians.
The Guardian reports that the casualty figures varied, with Iranian state television reporting that six people had been killed. There was no way to independently verify the government's reported figures, as police sealed off the area of the blast.
The Bashar Al-Assad regime has fiercely suppressed Sunni extremism inside Syria, most notably in the brutal crackdown on the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in Hama in 1982, which killed thousands. The regime also has an interest in downplaying any sectarian attacks, as it comes from the minority Shiite Alawi sect in a majority-Sunni nation.