Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
The site of a blasts outside the Iranian embassy in the Bir Hassan neighbourhood in southern Beirut. AFP
The site of a blasts outside the Iranian embassy in the Bir Hassan neighbourhood in southern Beirut.  AFP
A Lebanese man runs in front of burned cars at the scene of two explosions near the Iranian Embassy in Beirut. Hussein Malla / AP Photo
A Lebanese man runs in front of burned cars at the scene of two explosions near the Iranian Embassy in Beirut. Hussein Malla / AP Photo

Al Qaeda-linked group claims responsibility for Beirut’s Iranian embassy suicide bombings

The Abdullah Azzam Brigade, which has links with Al Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for the bombings, as the intensifying battle between factions fighting in Syria's civil war spills over into Lebanon again.

BEIRUT // Two suicide bombers killed Iran’s cultural attaché and 22 other people outside the Iranian Embassy in a Shiite neighbourhood of Beirut yesterday.

Footage from local news channels showed charred bodies on the ground as flames rose from the remains of several vehicles. Aid workers and residents carried away some of the victims on blankets.

At least 140 people were also injured in the blasts in the upscale neighbourhood of Janah, a stronghold of the Lebanese Shiite Hizbollah group.

The Abdullah Azzam Brigade, which has links with Al Qaeda, said it was responsible for the bombings that have highlighted the intensifying proxy battle between factions fighting in Syria’s civil war.

The brigade warned more attacks would follow unless Hizbollah, which is backed by Iran, withdraws its fighters from Syria. They have fought alongside Bashar Al Assad’s military against Syrian rebels, helping them to several military victorices, notably in Qusayr in May this year.

A Lebanese security official said the first suicide attacker was on a motorcycle that carried two kilograms of explosives. He blew himself up at the large black main gate of the Iranian mission, damaging the three-storey building, the official said.

Less than two minutes later, a second suicide attacker driving a car rigged with 50 kilograms of explosives struck about 10 metres away, the official said.

Iranian ambassador, Ghazanfar Roknabadi, identified the dead attaché as Sheik Ibrahim Ansari. Speaking to Hizbollah’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.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, said the bombings were “an alarm for all of us”.

“The tragedy today ... should be an alarm for all of us that we need to deal with and unless we deal with it seriously, it will engulf all of us,” Zarif said after talks with his Italian counterpart Emma Bonino in Rome.

Asked about the blame laid on Israel by his ministry, he said: “We have reason to be suspicious of every move they make. Every move they make is about spreading tension and mistrust.”

He said the attack was a symptom of the “extremism” spreading in the Middle East, particularly from Syria.

“There is every reason to be concerned about it. Extremism cannot be contained in any single country,” he said.

“It’s a very serious problem. Once we see a flare-up of the tension that is boiling in Syria there will hardly a possibility of stopping it at the Syrian border, or even in the Middle East,” he said.

Sectarian violence has surged in Lebanon since May when Hizbollah acknowledged it had joined the Assad regime in the war against mainly Sunni rebels. Two bombs in Beirut’s southern suburb, a Hizbollah stronghold, killed more than a dozen people in July and August.

“We tell those who carried out the attack, you will not be able to break us,” Hizbollah MP Ali Mikdad told Al-Mayadeen TV. “We got the message and we know who sent it and we know how to retaliate.”

Another Hizbollah official, Mahmoud Komati, told reporters at the scene that the attacks were a direct result of the “successive defeats suffered by extremists in Syria”.

The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attacks, although the authenticity of the claim could not be independently verified.

The Brigades posted the claim on a militant website and it also appeared on the Twitter account of Sirajuddin Zurayqat, a spokesman for the group.

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 July 2010 bombing of a Japanese oil tanker in the Arabian Gulf and a 2005 rocket attack that narrowly missed a US amphibious assault ship docked at Jordan’s Aqaba Red Sea resort.

In 2011, the Obama administration added a senior member of the group, Saudi citizen Saleh Al Qarawi, to the list of global terrorists subject to US sanctions.

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. 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, 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. He declined to be identified because he did not want to be seen as involved in sectarian tensions that have split the Lebanese over Syria’s conflict.

The explosions occurred hours before Lebanon and Iran were supposed to play a World Cup qualifier football match.

Associated Press with additional reporting by Bloomberg News and Agence France-Presse

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

Tyrese reunited with Fazza

Tyrese today posted on his social media accounts (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook) his pleasure at being reunited with the Crown Prince of Dubai Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

“I’m humbled from my heart to be embraced again by the crown prince of #Dubai Sheik Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum aka @faz3...” the Fast & Furious actor posted.

The two met on Tyrese’s first trip to the UAE in January. Tyrese along with singer Maxwell and Will Smith went indoor skydiving with Sheikh Hamdan.

 Above, the private pool of Ocean Heights' five-bedroom penthouse flat. Courtesy Christie’s International Real Estate

In pictures: Penthouse flat is height of Dubai luxury living

A five-bedroom penthouse in Ocean Heights in Dubai Marina is on sale for Dh25 million and comes with a private pool and an unparalleled view of Dubai.

Video: Local reactions to a national fishing ban

A federal fishing ban has been imposed by the UAE federal government, but local authorities are taking diiferent approaches to implementing the ban. Two fishermen tell two very different sides of the story. Produced by Paul O'Driscoll

 Hamburg players leave the field after the match against Borussia Moenchengladbach on March 30, 2014. AFP

Hamburg the dinosaur’s time may be up in Bundesliga

Ever-present for 51 years in the German top-flight, Hamburg face the prospect of relegation, writes Ian Hawkey.

 The new Bentley GT Speed convertible on display at a press event of the New York International Auto Show. Jason Szenes / EPA

In pictures: Hot cars at New York International Auto Show

With more than 1 million visitors annually, the New York International Auto Show is one of the most important shows for the US car industry. Here are some of the vehicles to be shown in this year’s edition.

 An Egyptian Orthodox Christian priest give communion during the Palm Sunday service inCairo, Egypt. Mohamed El-Shahed / AFP

Region in focus - April 18, 2014

The best images of the last seven days from around the Gulf and across the Middle East.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National