Beirut's Iranian Embassy Rocked by Blasts Leaving 23 Dead, 150 Injured
Two explosions killed at least 23 people and left scores injured Tuesday outside of the Iranian Embassy in Beirut. A pair of suicide bombers on a scooter and in an SUV were apparently responsible for the attack. About 150 people suffered injuries and six buildings in the compound sustained damage. Bloody bodies were strewn across the street, according to reports. Fires burned out cars and building facades were ripped off in the blasts. Iran's cultural attaché Sheikh Ibrahim Ansari was killed, according to Iranian ambassador Ghazanfar Roknabadi.
A radical Sunni group, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack — via Twitter — and also demanded the release of its imprisoned members in Lebanon. The group is linked to al-Qaeda. One leader, Sheikh Sirajeddine Zuraiqat, tweeted: "It was a double martyrdom operation by two of the Sunni heroes of Lebanon."
However, in the immediate aftermath of the bombing, different factions are pointing fingers. An Iranian ambassador blamed Israel for the attack, which the Israeli government vehemently denied. Hezbollah called out Israel, the West and Islamic extremists. The Future Movement, Hezbollah's rival, claimed the bombing was due to Hezbollah's alliance with Syria. The area of the attack is home to many Shiite Muslims and a Shiite political party, Amal, which is linked with Hezbollah.
Broadly, Syria's civil war is linked to the bombing, as some Lebanese have traveled to the neighboring country to fight. Shiites have stuck with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Sunni militants side with rebels and Hezbollah. Tensions were already high in Lebanon on Tuesday, as state media announced that Syrians took control of Qara, a town near the Lebanese border. The civil war has already cause more than a million Syrians to seek refuge in Lebanon, with an additional 10,000 refugees pouring in after the Qara attack.
“It is a message for the Iranian republic. They think in this terrorist act they can achieve something, but they failed,” says Bilal Farhat, a member of the Lebanese Parliament representing Hezbollah.
This month, a car bombing in a Hezbollah-controlled area near Beirut killed at least 22 people. In August, bombs were detonated in Tripoli neighborhoods that reportedly house Syrian rebels, killing at least 27 people.
Photo via Flickr: Grigory Gusev