Two explosions targeting the Iranian embassy hit Beirut today killing 23 people and damaging buildings around the embassy compound, Reuters reported.
Lebanese television stations said at least 150 people were wounded, but they quoted Iranian diplomatic sources saying none of their staff inside the embassy was hurt. However, Mehr News Agency reported that Iran’s cultural attaché Hojatoleslam Ebrahim Ansari was critically injured during the explosions and has been transported to the hospital.
“At one entrance of the Iranian embassy I counted six bodies outside. I saw body parts around and thrown two streets away,” Reuters television cameraman Issam Abdullah said from the scene. “There is huge damage; it looks like it is a car bomb. One car is twisted there. There were two Mercedes cars badly damaged,” he added.
The explosions were the latest in a string of bomb attacks in Lebanon, which has fallen prey to Shi'ite-Sunni sectarian violence linked to the two-and-half-year conflict in Syria.
Sunni rebel groups have condemned the increasingly critical role played by Iran’s Quds Force, its Lebanese ally, the Hezbollah, and QF-affiliated Iraqi Shia militias in the Syrian civil war. Late last year, as the result of the Quds Force and Hezbollah’s direct involvement in the conflict, the tide of war turned in favor of Assad’s regime. The explosion at the embassy today could be the work of Al Qaeda-affiliated militant Sunni groups fighting in Syria.
Fires engulfed cars and facades of some buildings were torn off and carpets of shattered glass from nearby buildings covered the bloodied streets but the embassy's well-fortified building itself suffered relatively minor damage, Reuters reported.
“Whoever did this is a monstrous terrorist...The resistance (Hezbollah) message is that it will continue. It will continue in all its efforts to defeat Israel and defeat the terrorists,” said Ali Ammar, a Hezbollah official. (Reuters, 19 November)
Photo credit: Explosions target Iranian embassy in Beirut. 19 November 2013. (Top photo: AFP/BBC/Twitter; bottom photo: Reuters/Stringer)