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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Two explosions in Lebanese capital, Iranian diplomat killed in Beirut blasts; dozens killed

At least 23 people were killed Tuesday morning when an explosion targeting the Iranian embassy rocked south Beirut. The cultural attache at the Iranian embassy, Ebrahim Ansari, is among the dead.

It was not immediately clear what had caused the explosions, and local reports varied from rockets to car bombs. Lebanese television stations said at least 140 people were wounded, but they quoted Iranian diplomatic sources saying none of their staff inside the embassy was hurt.

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.

According to the Lebanese OTV Channel the blast may have been caused by a suicide bomber.

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.

The neighborhood has been hit by several explosions in the past weeks that killed and wounded scores. Those attacks were blamed on groups linked to the rebels, believed to be in retaliation for its involvement in Syria's civil war.

Hezbollah fighters have been supporting Assad's forces in several strategic battles across Syria, a move that has also increased sectarian tension in the two countries.

The Syrian uprising has been mostly led by the country's Sunni Muslim majority and has been widely supported by Sunnis in Lebanon. Assad is from the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

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