Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

WEB NEWS

France's top consumer group sues Internet giants

Read more

WEB NEWS

Web users pay tribute to South Korea ferry victims

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

A landslide victory for the 'invisible candidate' in Algeria's Presidential polls

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 18 April 2014

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 18 April 2014 (part 2)

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Presidential adviser resigns over "shoe-shine scandal"

Read more

#THE 51%

Breaking stereotypes

Read more

#TECH 24

Galaxy S5 v. HTC One (M8): Which is the right one for you?

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

New PM Manuel Valls outlines priorities

Read more

  • Why Syria’s cash-strapped jihadists let hostages go

    Read more

  • Video: Ukraine separatist crisis overshadows Easter celebrations

    Read more

  • The Great War's unsung four-legged heroes

    Read more

  • Divers begin pulling bodies from sunken South Korean ferry

    Read more

  • Ukraine rebels call for Russian troops after deadly clash

    Read more

  • UK’s Hamilton cruises to victory at Chinese Grand Prix

    Read more

  • Freed French journalists arrive home after Syria ordeal

    Read more

  • Syria’s Assad visits recaptured Christian town at Easter

    Read more

  • In pictures: French kite festival takes flight

    Read more

  • Le Pen’s National Front fail to woo Britain’s Eurosceptics

    Read more

  • PSG clinch fourth League Cup title after beating Lyon

    Read more

  • Militants kill Algerian soldiers in deadly ambush

    Read more

  • Scores killed in South Sudan cattle raid

    Read more

  • VIDEO: Anti-Semitic leaflets in Eastern Ukraine condemned

    Read more

  • Bouteflika, the ghost president

    Read more

  • Does Valls’ upcoming Vatican trip violate French secularism?

    Read more

  • Ukraine separatists say ‘not bound’ by Geneva deal

    Read more

  • Abel Ferrara’s hotly awaited DSK film to premiere on web

    Read more

  • Obama signs bill to block controversial Iran diplomat from UN post

    Read more

  • Astronomers discover Earth-like planet that could support life

    Read more

  • In pictures: Iranian woman pardons son’s killer at the gallows

    Read more

Middle east

Al Qaeda offshoot claims Beirut bombings

© Screen grab: NBN

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-11-19

The Iranian embassy in the Lebanese capital Beirut was the apparent target of two explosions on Tuesday, killing at least 23 people and wounding a further 146. The al Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades has claimed responsibility.

Twin explosions rocked a southern neighbourhood of the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Tuesday near the Iranian Embassy compound, killing at least 23 people and injuring 146, according to Lebanese medical officials.

The blasts occurred in the Bir Hassan area, a stronghold of the Shiite Hezbollah movement, which has been supporting President Bashar al Assad in neighbouring Syria.

Speaking to FRANCE 24 from Beirut, Justin Salhani, a correspondent for The Atlantic Post, said the blasts in a Shiite-dominated, upscale neighbourhood of the Lebaense capital were a major attack.

“There’s large scale destruction, there’s blood on the ground here on the scene. It’s not a pretty sight,” said Salhani, adding that the attack occurred, “outside the Iranian Embassy, which is surrounded by residential buildings, as most embassies are in Beirut. Many of the buildings here have their windows knocked out, you can see water spraying out of buildings and glass all over the ground.”

The al Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for the double suicide attacks.

In a Twitter post in Arabic, the group’s spiritual guide Sheikh Sirajeddine Zureiqat, said the “double martyrdom operation” was carried out by “two Sunni heroes of Lebanon”. A later Twitter posting warned that the group will continue its operations in Lebanon until Hezbollah pulls its fighters out of Syria.

Security camera footage showed a man rushing toward the outer wall of the Iranian Embassy before detonating a belt packed with explosives. The second explosion was caused by a car bomb, said Lebanese security officials.

There were conflicting reports about whether the victims of the attack included Iran’s cultural attaché to Lebanon, Sheikh Ebrahim Ansari. Earlier Tuesday, Iran’s ambassador told the Associated Press that Ansari had succumbed to wounds sustained in the bombings.

But in an interview with Iranian state TV later Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said Ansari was critically wounded and showing “signs of life”.

Shiite-dominated neighbourhoods of Beirut have been targeted in the past few months with car bombs and rockets in what Syrian rebels say is retaliation for Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian civil war.

Hezbollah fighters in Syria have been supporting forces loyal to Assad, who hails from the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam.

Iran, the world’s Shiite powerhouse, has been Hezbollah’s main backer in the Shiite group’s conflict against. Since the Syrian uprising began in 2011, Iran has been supporting the Assad regime and in recent months, there have been credible reports that members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard are operating in Syria. Tehran however officially denies the reports.

Iran blames Israel for attack

Syria was among the first countries to react to Tuesday’s attack. “The Syrian government firmly condemns the terrorist attack carried out near the Iranian embassy in Beirut,” said Syrian state TV.

Iran has accused Israel of carrying out the attacks. In a statement posted by the official IRNA news agency, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said the bombings were “an inhuman crime and spiteful act done by Zionists and their mercenaries”.

France and Britain have also condemned the attack.

Tuesday’s attack coincides with French President François Hollande's state visit to neighbouring Israel as Tehran prepares to hold another round of nuclear talks in Geneva.

Hollande’s visit comes as the US has been making progress to try to secure a deal to get Iran to halt its bid to build nuclear weapons in exchange for sanctions relief. Israel and France have cautioned against rushing into a deal with Iran.

Reporting from Beirut, Salhani said the recent developments on Iran’s diplomatic front could also be a factor in a country that is often seen as a pawn in the geostrategic interests of its neighbours.

“It could also be the fact that Iran is in negotiations with the US. It makes groups that are fighting in Syria on the opposition side feel pushed aside,” said Salhani.

Syrian conflict threatens Lebanon’s delicate communal balance

Tensions have been rising in Lebanon as the brutal Syrian conflict drags into its 32nd month. While the majority of the country’s Sunni population supports the Syrian opposition’s goal to oust Assad, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has vowed not to withdraw his fighters supporting the regime from Syria.

Over the past two years, there have been increasing fears that the conflict in Syria would spill into Lebanon, a country that experienced a bloody, internecine civil war from 1975 to 1990.

“Since the [Lebanese] civil war ended, this country has had a very delicate peace,” explained FRANCE 24’s International Affairs Editor Douglas Herbert. “There’s always a sense of walking on a tripwire and any event – especially a civil war at your doorstep – could be the spark that sets off the tinderbox in Lebanon.”

Date created : 2013-11-19

  • LEBANON

    Extracting clues, lessons of Beirut attack, 30 years later

    Read more

  • LEBANON

    Deadly clashes erupt in eastern Lebanon

    Read more

  • LEBANON - USA

    US embassy staff to leave Lebanon over security fears

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)