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The Latest: Twin blasts hit near religious sites in Damascus

  • In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, speaks during an interview with Hong-Kong based Phoenix TV in Damascus, Syria, Saturday, March 11, 2017. Assad said that his military's priority is to reach Islamic State's de-facto capital Raqqa, where U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces are advancing. (SANA via AP)

    In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, speaks during an interview with Hong-Kong based Phoenix TV in Damascus, Syria, Saturday, March 11, 2017. Assad said that his military's priority is to reach Islamic State's de-facto capital Raqqa, where U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces are advancing. (SANA via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, speaks during an interview with Hong-Kong based Phoenix TV in Damascus, Syria, Saturday, March 11, 2017. Assad said that his military's priority is to reach Islamic State de-facto capital Raqqa, where U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces are advancing. (SANA via AP)

    In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, speaks during an interview with Hong-Kong based Phoenix TV in Damascus, Syria, Saturday, March 11, 2017. Assad said that his military's priority is to reach Islamic State de-facto capital Raqqa, where U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces are advancing. (SANA via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • 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)

    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)  (The Associated Press)

The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):

1 p.m.

Arab media are reporting at least 40 people are dead after twin blasts in a Damascus neighborhood that is home to tombs of religious figures frequented by Shiite pilgrims.

There were conflicting reports on what caused the explosions.

State news agency SANA says the twin explosions hit near Bab al-Saghir cemetery, one of the capital's most ancient, and where several prominent religious figures are buried. It says several were killed and the cemetery was damaged.

Lebanon's al-Manar TV quoted Syrian officials as saying 40 were killed following twin suicide attacks. Arab TV Al-Mayadeen also reported at least 40 were killed while the area was under tight security.

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12:50 p.m.

Syria's President Bashar Assad tells a Chinese TV station that his military's priority is to reach the Islamic State group's de-facto capital of Raqqa — toward which U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces are also advancing.

The interview with Hong-Kong based Phoenix TV aired Saturday, Assad says another IS stronghold, Deir el-Zour, can be targeted in parallel.

Assad says "in theory" he shares the same priority with U.S. President Donald Trump of fighting terrorism, but that they have had no formal contact yet. He says Russia, a major ally, hopes it can bring the U.S. and Turkey into cooperating with Moscow and Damascus in the fight against terrorism in Syria. Assad's government views all armed opposition as terrorist groups.

Assad says all foreign troops on Syrian soil without invitation or consultation with the Syrian government are considered "invaders."