Suicide blasts hit Iranian Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon
BEIRUT Two suicide bombers detonated explosions outside the Iranian Embassy in a mainly Shiite district of the Lebanese capital on Tuesday, killing 23 people, including the Iranian cultural attache, apparently in retaliation for the Lebanese group Hezbollah's support of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The bombings appeared to be another strike in an intensifying proxy battle over Syria's civil war that is rattling its smaller neighbor Lebanon. An al Qaeda-linked Sunni extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying more would follow unless the Iranian-backed Shiite Hezbollah withdraws fighters that have helped Assad's military score key victories over Syrian rebels.
The midmorning blasts hit the upscale neighborhood of Janah, a Hezbollah stronghold, leaving bodies and pools of blood on the glass-strewn street amid burning cars. More than 140 people were wounded, officials said.
A Lebanese security official said the first suicide attacker was on a motorcycle that carried two kilograms (4.4 pounds) of explosives. He blew himself up at the large black main gate of the Iranian mission, damaging the three-story facility, the official said.
Less than two minutes later, a second suicide attacker driving a car rigged with 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of explosives struck about 10 meters (yards) away, the official said.
The bombing was one of the deadliest in a string of attacks that have targeted Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon in recent months in a campaign of retaliation by Sunni radicals over its backing of Assad in Syria's bloody conflict, now in its third year.
|First one scrambles everything and everyone, including the disaster response; second one is the killer.|
At the scene of the blasts, blood was puddled on the ground, and debris and tree limbs torn off by the blasts were scattered over the streets. AP video showed firefighters extinguishing flames from burning vehicles, blood-spattered streets and bodies covered with sheets on the ground. A charred motorcycle stood outside the embassy gate.
A woman in a black robe and headscarf, unable to stand, clutched a man, pleading with security forces for help.
"Nader," she wailed, crying out a man's name. "Nader is missing." Another man ran from the area, carrying a South Asian migrant worker limp in his arms.
"People aren't sacred anymore. We aren't safe," said a mechanic whose store windows were shattered by the blasts. "People fight outside (Lebanon), but send their messages through Lebanon. With bombs. It's their SMS service," he added.
Lebanese Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said the twin explosions killed 23 people and wounded 146.
Iranian Ambassador Ghazanfar Roknabadi identified the dead diplomat as Sheik Ibrahim Ansari. Speaking to Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV from inside the embassy compound, he said Ansari took his post in Lebanon a month ago and was overseeing all regional cultural activities. Al-Manar reported that the street targeted by the suicide bombers includes a building where some of the Iranian diplomats and their families live.
Posted by: Steve White 2013-11-19