Suicide blasts kill 23 outside Iranian embassy in Beirut
Published Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Updated 3:20 pm: Two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the Iranian embassy in Beirut's southern suburbs Tuesday morning, killing at least 23 people and wounding over 100, in a brazen attack claimed by an al-Qaeda-linked group.
It may have been the first suicide attack on a non-military installation in the history of Lebanon, which is struggling to contain a spat of Syria-related violence
Al Mayadeen TV said that security cameras showed the first suicide bomber charge the embassy on a motorcycle and blow himself up to clear the way for a second bomber, who detonated a car packed with explosives.
The Lebanese army confirmed that account in a statement carried by the National News Agency.
Iran's ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi told the Beirut-based station that no one was killed inside the embassy, located in the densely populated neighborhood of Bir Hassan.
Roknabadi originally announced the death of Iran's cultural attache Sheikh Ibrahim al-Ansari in the attack, but later said he was still alive and undergoing emergency surgery. All other victims appeared to be passers-by.
Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil put the casualty figures at 23 dead and 146 injured.
TV Footage showed several corpses strewn across the ground, some of them engulfed in flames, at the site of the explosions. An Al-Akhbar photographer said he witnessed charred bodies trapped inside burning vehicles.
Sirajeddin Zreikat, a member of the al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the suicide bombings on Twitter and threatened further attacks.
He wrote that his group "will continue operations in Lebanon" as long as Hezbollah forces remain in Syria, and demanded that Lebanon release all prisoners affiliated with the Salafi movement.
4-وستستمر العملياتُ في لبنان -بإذن الله- حتى يتحقق مطلبان الأول: سحب عناصر حزب إيران من سورية والثاني فكاكُ أسرانا من سجون الظلم في لبنان.
— سراج الدين زريقات (@SirajeddineZ) November 19, 2013
Thousands of Hezbollah soldiers are fighting alongside government forces against rebels in Syria, drawing reprisal attacks including car bombs and rockets on Shia regions of Lebanon.
Lebanon has witnessed dozens of car bombs over years marked by war and political tension, but this is the first time a suicide bomber targets civilians in the country.
The last suicide bombings in Lebanon were carried out by the Resistance against Israeli occupation forces in South Lebanon in the 1990s.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned Tuesday's "cowardly terrorist act" aimed to stir tensions.
The explosions comes about three months after a series of car bombs targeted residential neighborhoods in the southern suburbs of Beirut, widely blamed on Salafi extremists with ties to Syria's al-Qaeda-linked rebels.
The most deadly of them killed 27 in Dahiyeh's Roueiss neighborhood on August 15.
A week later nearly 50 people were killed when two car bombs exploded outside mosques in Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli on August 23.
Hundreds of Lebanese security forces have been manning dozens of checkpoints at the entrances of, and inside, Dahiyeh since the summer attacks in a bid to fend off future attacks.
Bir Hassan is located just outside Dahiyeh.