At least 23, including Iranian diplomat, killed in blasts. Iranian Ambassador blames Israel for the attack. Syria has laid the blame on Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Two explosions targeting the Iranian embassy have hit the Lebanese capital Beirut, security sources said, killing up to 23 people, injuring at least 146 and damaging buildings in the embassy compound, Al Jazeera reports. According to Euronews, Al Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades say they were behind the double suicide attack on the embassy.
Lebanese sources told Al Jazeera that the Iranian ambassador is safe, but the cultural attaché of the embassy, Ebrahim Ansari, has been confirmed dead. It is unclear where he was when he was killed, as Iranian sources have said that all other embassy staff are safe. It was not immediately clear what caused the blasts. Reuters news agency reported a security source saying the blasts were caused by two rockets fired on the area, in the southern part of the city, and a second security source saying there was a car bomb explosion.
An armed guard of the Iranian embassy reportedly told AP news agency that the first blast was believed to have been carried out by a suicide attacker who rode a motorcycle and blew himself up outside the gate. The other explosion, that caused much more damage, was a car bomb, the guard said. “The sheer scale of the destruction is an indication as to how powerful the explosives were,” reported Al Jazeera’s correspondent from near the site, “with over five buildings damaged by the blasts.”
Live 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. “People are roaming the streets looking for loved ones,” said Khodr. “The scene is chaotic, and reports here on the ground have the number of casualties rising.”
Lebanon has seen several explosions and street clashes in Beirut and the northern city of Tripoli linked to the two-and-a-half-year conflict in neighbouring Syria. There was no word on who was behind the blasts, but Syrian rebels have threatened to target President Bashar al-Assad’s allies in neighbouring Lebanon. Iran has been bank-rolling Assad’s fight against the mainly Sunni rebels and has given military support. It also supports Hezbollah in Lebanon.
But Al Jazeera’s Soraya Lennie, reporting from Tehran, said that “the Iranian ambassador in Lebanon, who escaped from the attack uninjured, is blaming Israel for the attack”.
Southern Beirut has been rocked with at least three other explosions this year.