November 19, 2013

Suicide bombings at Iran Embassy in Beirut kill 23

The explosions take place in a stronghold of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, a main ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

By Diaa Hadid And Hussein Malla
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

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

click image to enlarge

Lebanese people, gather around two dead bodies at the scene where two explosions have struck near the Iranian Embassy killing many, 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/Bilal Hussein

Shiite Iran is the main Mideast backer of Assad’s government, believed to be providing it with key financing and weapons.

A Lebanese al-Qaida-linked group, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they would continue until Hezbollah withdraws its forces from Syria.

The authenticity of the claim could not be independently verified. It was posted on a militant website and on the Twitter account of Sirajuddin Zurayqat, a spokesman of the Azzam Brigades.

“It was a double martyrdom operation by two Sunni heroes from Lebanon,” he wrote.

The group is active in southern Lebanon and has issued claims in the past for rocket attacks into northern Israel. It has also claimed a 2010 bombing of a Japanese oil tanker in the Persian Gulf and a 2005 rocket attack that narrowly missed a U.S. amphibious assault ship docked at Jordan’s Aqaba Red Sea resort.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry blamed Israel in a phone conversation with his Lebanese counterpart, while Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blamed “extremists motivated by foreigners.”

Hezbollah and Syrian officials indirectly blamed Saudi Arabia, the Sunni Arab kingdom that along with fellow Gulf nation Qatar has been a major backer of Syria’s rebels.

“Each of the terrorist attacks that strike in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq reek of petrodollars,” a Syrian government statement said, a clear reference to oil-rich Gulf Arab countries.

Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari accused Saudi Arabia, Israel and Qatar of backing the al-Qaida terrorists who carried out the attack.

Ayham Kamel, an analyst with the Eurasia group in London, said Sunni rebels and their regional supporters “aim to undermine Hezbollah security in its homeland, deter Hezbollah and Iran from aiding the Syrian military, ... and potentially pressure Iran” ahead of this week’s nuclear talks in Geneva.

The Saudis have watched with increasing nervousness as President Barack Obama has approved a cautious opening with their archrival Iran, which could reorder strategic priorities.

At the scene of the blasts, blood was puddled on the ground, and debris and tree limbs were scattered over the streets. Associated Press video showed firefighters extinguishing burning vehicles, as well as bodies covered with sheets. A charred motorcycle stood outside the embassy gate.

Rabie Yehya said he and other volunteers grabbed plastic bags from a nearby abandoned plot of land and began filling them with body parts.

“We emptied them and filled them,” he said.

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