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Middle east

Deadly explosions strike southern suburb of Beirut

© Twitter user @EjmAlrai

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-02-19

Twin explosions struck near an Iranian cultural centre in the southern suburbs of Lebanon’s capital Beirut on Wednesday, killing at least four people and wounding several others, security sources said.

Television footage showed fire trucks and soldiers securing the area as ambulances raced to the scene.

A number of cars were badly damaged in the blasts – one was flipped onto its roof while another continued to burn nearby. Glass could be seen strewn across the road and the facades of nearby buildings were destroyed.

Security sources said the explosions were caused by two suicide bombers, one in a car and the second on a motorcycle. The same tactics were used by suicide bombers who attacked Iran’s embassy in November.

A militant group linked to al Qaeda, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attacks on Twitter.

“In a little while, God willing, there will be important announcements on the attack of the Iranian cultural centre in Beirut by your brothers in the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, from the Hussein Bin Ali cell,” the group said.

But Iran's foreign ministry blamed Israeli "agents" for the attack despite the statement from the Abdullah Azzam Brigades.

"There is no doubt that perpetrators of this terrorist act are the enemies of stability, security and unity of Lebanon," ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said in a statement carried by the official IRNA news agency.

"[They] are agents of the Zionist (Israeli) regime who have been frustrated by the formation of a new government that includes all parties and tribes in Lebanon," she added.

The windows of a nearby orphanage had been blown out by the explosions. Some children peered out, screaming “bomb, bomb”, while others cried. A man working at a sweet shop opposite the bomb site said the blast shook the entire area.

“We heard one explosion and then another,” he said.

The area is controlled by the Shiite movement Hezbollah, which is fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces across the border, in a conflict that has fuelled tensions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Lebanon.

Radical Sunni Islamists sympathetic to rebels fighting against Assad, a member of the Alawite offshoot of Shiite Islam who has also been backed by Iran, have vowed to attack Hezbollah on Lebanese soil for helping him.

Hezbollah blamed Saudi Arabia, a Sunni power that backs the Syrian opposition, for the November attack on the Iranian embassy, one of a series of car bomb attacks targeting Shiite areas in Beirut and eastern Lebanon.

Wednesday’s blast occurred near the Kuwaiti embassy and a Lebanese army barracks. Numerous Lebanese politicians also live in the area, which is not far from Beirut airport.

Last week Lebanese security forces arrested Naim Abbas, who was identified as the al Qaeda-linked mastermind behind a recent string of car bomb attacks. Abbas’s arrest was followed by a security sweep that resulted in the seizure of a number of cars rigged with explosives ready to be deployed.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-02-19

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