Two suicide bombings struck near the Iranian embassy in Beirut Tuesday morning, killing at least 23, according to Lebanon’s health minister.
Lebanon’s Daily Star quoted unnamed security sources who said one of the bombers was on motorcycle while the other was driving a rigged car in the attack that also wounded about 150 people, including several embassy guards.
Lebanese men run to remove dead bodies from burned cars, at the scene where two explosions have struck near the Iranian Embassy killing several, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday Nov. 19, 2013. The blasts in south Beirut's neighborhood of Janah also caused extensive damage on the nearby buildings and the Iranian mission. The area is a stronghold of the militant Hezbollah group, which is a main ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the civil war next door. It's not clear if the blasts are related to Syria's civil war. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
The explosions occurred in the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Janah, a Hezbollah stronghold, which led to speculation that the attack could be in retaliation for Iran and Hezbollah’s military support for Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The security sources said Iranian embassy cultural attache Sheikh Ibrahim Ansari, who had recently arrived in Beirut to join the Iranian mission, and two Iranian civilians were among the dead. Iranian Ambassador Ghazanfar Roknabadi confirmed to Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television that the embassy’s cultural attache was among the dead.
“Fires engulfed cars and facades of some buildings were torn off and carpets of shattered glass from nearby buildings covered the bloodied streets but the embassy's well-fortified building itself suffered relatively minor damage. Trees in the area were uprooted by the force of the blasts,” Reuters reported.
This is how the Associated Press described the scene: “Debris was scattered on the street and cars were on fire as people ran away from the chaotic scene. The second blast was yards away from the embassy building.”
“AP video showed firefighters extinguishing flames from vehicles, blood-spattered streets and bodies covered with sheets on the ground. A charred motorcycle stood outside the embassy gate,” the AP reported.
The Daily Star reported that three buildings near the embassy also sustained damage.
The AP quoted an unnamed embassy guard who said the first bomb that exploded originated from a motorcycle outside the embassy gate.
Lebanese security officials told the AP that both bombings were suicide attacks. As of this writing, no group had yet taken responsibility for the attack.
Hezbollah Member of Parliament Ali Mikdad told Al-Mayadeen TV, "We tell those who carried out the attack, you will not be able to break us…We got the message and we know who sent it and we know how to retaliate."
Lebanon has been gripped with bombing attacks linked to the Syrian conflict next door in which Sunni rebels have been fighting President Assad’s Alawite regime which is backed by Shi’ite Iran and Hezbollah.
More than 60 people were killed in August in bombings in Lebanon reportedly connected with the Syria war.
That didn’t stop Hezbollah official Ali Ammar from blaming Israel for Tuesday's suicide bombings. "Whoever did this is a monstrous terrorist...The resistance [Hezbollah] message is that it will continue. It will continue in all its efforts to defeat Israel and defeat the terrorists,” he said according to Reuters.
The Iranian ambassador to Lebanon echoed that sentiment, also accusing Israel of being behind the explosions, according to the Daily Star. Ambassador Ghazanfar Roknabadi said the embassy was the target of the “terrorist attack.”