Beirut blasts kill 23, al Qaeda-linked group claims hand

Two suicide bombings rocked Iran`s embassy compound in Lebanon on Tuesday, killing at least 23 people including an Iranian cultural attaché.

Zee Media Bureau

Beirut: Two suicide bombings rocked Iran`s embassy compound in Lebanon on Tuesday, killing at least 23 people including an Iranian cultural attaché and hurling bodies and burning wreckage across a debris-strewn street.

A suicide bomber blew himself in a parking lot near the embassy at 10.15 am today followed by another suicide bomber who blew a bobby-trapped car near the embassy, reports suggest.

Lebanese group linked to a terror group al Qaeda, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades took the responsibility of the deadly blasts.

A local security source estimated the weight of the explosive materials used in the explosion to be around 100 kg of TNT.

Al Mayadeen TV reported that civil defence teams managed to put off the huge fire that erupted due to the explosions and is working on rescuing people who were trapped in the homes.

Lebanon`s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati called the Iran`s Ambassador to Lebanon Ghadanfar Roknabadi and sent him condolences for those killed.

Hezbollah fighters have been fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad`s forces against largely Sunni rebels seeking to topple his government.

Iranian ambassador Ghazanfar Roknabadi identified the dead diplomat as Sheikh Ibrahim Ansari. Speaking to Hezbollah`s Al-Manar TV, he said Ansari took his post in Lebanon a month ago and was overseeing all regional cultural activities.

Lebanese health minister Ali Hassan Khalil said 23 people were killed and 146 wounded in the blasts.

Debris was scattered on the street and cars were on fire as people ran away from the chaotic scene. The second blast was meters (yards) away from the embassy building.

AP video showed firefighters extinguishing flames from vehicles, blood-spattered streets and bodies covered with sheets on the ground. A charred motorcycle stood outside the embassy gate.

An armed guard at the embassy told AP 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 guard, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to media, said the other explosion, which caused much more damage, was likely a car bomb.

Lebanese security officials confirmed the two bombings were both suicide attacks. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

"We tell those who carried out the attack, you will not be able to break us," Hezbollah lawmaker Ali Mikdad told Al-Mayadeen TV. "We got the message and we know who sent it and we know how to retaliate."

Hezbollah`s Al-Rasoul al-Azam hospital called on people to donate blood, saying they need all blood types.

Iran has been one of Assad`s strongest supporters, supplying him with money and weapons since the Syrian crisis began in March 2011.

An August 15 car bombing in a Shia stronghold of Hezbollah in the southern suburbs of Beirut killed 27 people and wounded more than 300. A less powerful car bomb targeted the same area on July 9, wounding more than 50 people.

With agency inputs