Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, November 2013
23 People Killed, 146 Injured in Two Blasts Targeting Iranian Embassy in Beirut, November 19, 2013
Blasts target Iranian embassy in Beirut, killing 23
By Laila Bassam and Erika Solomon
Tuesday, November 19, 2013, 6:29am EST
Two explosions, at least one caused by a suicide bomber, rocked Iran's embassy in Lebanon on Tuesday, killing at least 23 people, including an Iranian cultural attaché, and hurling bodies, cars and debris across the street.
A Lebanese-based al Qaeda-linked group known as the Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for what it described as a double suicide attack on the Iranian mission in southern Beirut.
Lebanon has suffered a series of bomb attacks and clashes linked to the 2-1/2-year-old conflict in neighboring Syria.
Security camera footage showed a man in an explosives belt rushing towards the outer wall of the embassy before blowing himself up, Lebanese officials said. They said the second explosion was caused by a car bomb parked two buildings away from the compound.
In a Twitter post, Sheikh Sirajeddine Zuraiqat, the religious guide of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, said the group had carried out the attack. "It was a double martyrdom operation by two of the Sunni heroes of Lebanon," he wrote.
Shi'ite Iran actively supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against Sunni Muslim rebels, who are backed and armed by Sunni powers Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Syrian rebel groups, some linked to al Qaeda, have threatened to take their battle from Syria to Lebanon in response to the military involvement of Iran and its Lebanese Shi'ite guerrilla ally Hezbollah alongside Assad's forces.
CULTURAL ATTACHE KILLED
Iran's ambassador Ghazanfar Roknabadi said it was clear the attacks targeted his embassy and identified one of the dead as Ebrahim Ansari, a cultural attaché who was on his way to work at the diplomatic compound when the bombs exploded.
Lebanon's Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said 23 people had been killed and 146 wounded.
"At one entrance of the Iranian embassy I counted six bodies outside," Reuters television cameraman Issam Abdullah said. "I saw body parts...thrown two streets away. There is huge damage."
The embassy's sturdy metal gate was twisted by the blasts.
Fires engulfed cars outside the embassy and the facades of some buildings were torn off. Carpets of shattered glass from nearby buildings covered the bloodied streets and some trees were uprooted, but the embassy's well-fortified building itself suffered relatively minor damage.
Soldiers in camouflage, firefighters and paramedics all rushed to the scene to evacuate the wounded.
The attack followed car bombings in Sunni and Shi'ite Muslim strongholds in Beirut and the northern city of Tripoli in August, in which a total of at least 66 people were killed.
"Whoever carries out such an attack in these sensitive circumstances, from whichever faction, knows directly or indirectly that he is serving the interests of the Zionist entity (Israel)," Iranian ambassador Roknabadi said.
He did not say whether other embassy officials were among the dead, but Lebanese televisions quoted Iranian diplomatic sources saying none of their staff inside the embassy was hurt.
Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoabi implicitly blamed Saudi Arabia and Qatar for supporting radical militants, who have been accused for previous attacks against Shi'ite targets.
Footage from local news channels showed charred bodies on the ground as flames rose from stricken vehicles. Emergency workers and residents carried victims away in blankets.
Hezbollah official Ali Ammar said the attack would not deter the group, known by its supporters as the "resistance".
"Whoever did this is a monstrous terrorist," he said. "The resistance message is that it will continue. It will continue in all its efforts to defeat Israel and defeat the terrorists."
Shi'ite Iran has been bank-rolling Assad's fight against the mainly Sunni rebels and has given military support to the president's forces. It also supports Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Southern Beirut, a Hezbollah stronghold, was hit by three explosions earlier this year. Those attacks were blamed on groups linked to the Syrian rebels, believed to be in retaliation for the group's involvement in Syria's civil war.
Hezbollah fighters have played a crucial combat role for Assad in several battles, but their involvement has increased sectarian tension in Syria and in Lebanon.
Mostly Sunni Syrian rebels have been supported by foreign jihadi fighters in their struggle to topple Assad, who is from the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.
Many in Lebanon's Sunni community want to see Assad overthrown, while many of its Shi'ites, especially Hezbollah supporters, are equally determined that he survive.
Toll rises to 23 killed, 146 injured in Beirut blasts
BEIRUT, November 19, 2013 (Xinhua) --
The death toll from the twin bombings that rocked area Tuesday near the Iranian embassy in Beirut rose to 23 killed and 146 others injured, the Lebanese caretaker health minister said.
Ali Hassan Khalil said that the toll from the blast, which took place in Hezbollah's stronghold in the southern suburbs of the capital, could rise further, according to the state-run National News agency (NNA).
The NNA said earlier that a suicide bomber blew himself up in a parking lot near the embassy at 10:15 a.m. followed by another suicide bomber who blew a bobby-trapped car near the embassy.
A local security source estimated the weight of the explosive materials used in the explosion to be around 100 kgs of TNT.
Al Mayadeen TV reported that the civil defense teams managed to put off the huge fire that erupted due to the explosions and is working on rescuing the people who were trapped in the homes.
Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati called the Iranian ambassador to Lebanon Ghadanfar Roknabadi and offered him condolences over the victims.
On August 15 a booby trapped car bomb exploded in the Rouweiss neighborhood in the southern suburbs, killing 15 people and injuring more than 150 others.
On August 23 twin car bombings targeted two mosques in the northern port city of Tripoli, leaving 47 killed and more than 350 others injured.
Both bombings were related to the Syrian crisis and the involvement of Lebanese political factions, particularly Hezbollah in the ongoing fighting in the neighboring country.
Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman has called on all Lebanese to respect the official policy of disassociation adopted by the government, and refrain from getting involved in the Syrian crisis.
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