Lebanon blasts hit Iran's embassy in Beirut

Key Points

  • There have been two suspected suicide bomb attacks near the Iranian embassy in Lebanon's capital, Beirut.
  • A source close to the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, a Lebanese jihadist group linked to al-Qaeda, says they were responsible.
  • At least 23 people have been killed, but there are conflicting reports about the fate of Iran's cultural attache. (All times in GMT.)

    Welcome to our live page covering the aftermath of the two large explosions outside the Iranian embassy in Beirut, which Lebanon's National News Agency says have killed at least 20 people and wounded many more.


    It is not yet clear what caused the blasts in a predominantly Shia area of the Lebanese capital. Video footage showed widespread destruction, burning vehicles, charred bodies and a huge column of smoke.

    Aftermath of the bomb explosion in Beirut

    A BBC correspondent in Beirut says those responsible wanted to send a clear message to Iran and Hezbollah, key backers of the Syrian government, which is currently trying to cut off one of the Syrian rebels' last remaining supply routes across the Lebanese border.


    There are conflicting reports about the fate of the Iranian cultural attache, Sheikh Ebrahim Ansari. Lebanese security sources say he was killed, but the Iranian ambassador told the Associated Press that he was critically wounded. The National News Agency says the dead include two Iranian nationals.


    Lebanon's Health Minister Ali Khali is now saying that at least 22 people have been killed and 146 wounded.

    Red Cross workers recover a body from the scene of the explosions in Beirut

    Iran's cultural attache has died of his wounds, Ambassador Ghazanfar Roknabadi has now told the Associated Press.


    The Iranian ambassador tells Hezbollah's al-Manar TV that it is not clear whether the cultural attache was in the embassy itself or one of the residential buildings nearby at the time of the explosions.


    The extent of the blast damage is visible in this image:

    Blast damage at scene of twin explosions in southern Beirut on Tuesday

    ABC News Middle East correspondent Alexander Marquardt tweets: "#Syria information minister accuses #Saudi intelligence and #Israel of being behind #Beirut blasts at #Iran embassy."


    Reuters Jerusalem correspondent Dan Williams tweets: "Tzachi Hanegbi, senior member of the Israeli parliament's foreign affairs and defence panel, says Israel had no role in the Beirut bombings... 'The bloodshed in Beirut stems from Hezbollah's involvement in the Syria crisis. Israel was not involved in the past, nor here.' - Hanegbi"


    The suspicion is that a suicide bomber and car bomb caused the blasts

    Two Lebanese men in front of burned cars, at the scene where two explosions have struck near the Iranian embassy killing many, in Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday

    More details are beginning to emerge about the attack in the upmarket Janah district in southern Beirut, a Hezbollah stronghold. Lebanese officials now say they have security camera footage showing the twin blasts were the result of a suicide bombing and a car bomb. Earlier, a guard at the embassy told the Associated Press that a suicide attacker had ridden a motorbike up to the main gate before blowing himself up. The second blast, which caused more damage, had been a car bomb, he added.

    Carine Torbey BBC Arabic, Beirut

    Several Syrian armed groups have threatened to target Shia areas in Lebanon in retaliation for Hezbollah's and Iran's role in supporting President Assad.

    Rowena in Beirut

    As I was checking my emails in my office two blocks away from the blast, I heard the bomb. I looked at my colleague and I calmly affirmed that it was a blast and we would hear the sirens shortly and then I continued replying to some random email. How have we Lebanese become so used to this? People have just lost their lives!


    A domestic worker was injured in the blasts, which affected well-to-do residential buildings as well as the Iranian embassy.

    A man helps an injured domestic worker close to the scene of the explosions in Beirut on Tuesday
    Meir Javedanfar, in Tel Aviv

    author of the Iran-Israel Observer, tweets: #iran embassy explosion in Beirut could increase calls inside #Hezbollah to reduce #syria presence


    On Thursday, the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, pledged that its forces would remain in Syria as long as necessary. "As long as the reasons remain, our presence there will remain," told thousands of his followers at a rally in Beirut. He said these included supporting the Lebanese and Palestinian causes, "to confront all the dangers of the international, regional and takfiri attack on this country and on this region", referring to extremist Sunni rebels in Syria.


    Damascus was quick to condemn the bombings. "The Syrian government firmly condemns the terrorist attack carried out near the Iranian embassy in Beirut," state television said.


    Tom Fletcher, British ambassador to Lebanon, tweets: "UK condemns appalling terrorist attack on Iranian embassy. Deep condolences to families. We remain at high state of vigilance & ready to help."


    Hezbollah official Ali Ammar said the militant Shia Islamist group would not be deterred by the attack. "Whoever did this is a monstrous terrorist," he said, according to Reuters. "The resistance message is that it will continue. It will continue in all its efforts to defeat Israel and defeat the terrorists."

    Damaged gate at the entrance to the Iranian embassy The damaged gate at the entrance to the embassy

    IHS Jane's analyst Charles Lister tweets: "Reports emerging that the first of two explosions at #Iran embassy was the result of a suicide bomber on a motorbike... Second device was car bomb (a Renault Rapid), containing 50-100kg of explosives. Both detonated within 120 seconds of each other... Details suggest tactics are qualitatively different to previous bombings in Dahiyeh. Similarly, the target is certainly an escalation."


    Dahieh, a predominantly Shia southern suburb of Beirut that is a stronghold of Hezbollah, has been targeted twice already this year. On 9 July, a massive car bomb exploded in a busy shopping street, wounding more than 50 people. Just over a month later, on 15 August, another car bomb in the same district killed 24 people. Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah blamed both attacks on takfiris, who consider all but the most radical Sunnis to be infidels whose blood can be spilt.


    Iran's foreign ministry has accused Israel of being behind the attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut. The bombings were "an inhuman crime and spiteful act done by Zionists and their mercenaries," spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham was quoted as saying by the official Irna news agency.


    However, there are also reports a Lebanese jihadist group linked to al-Qaeda, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, will issue a statement shortly about the Iranian embassy attack. IHS Jane's analyst Charles Lister tweets: "Are the Abdullah Azzam Brigades involved in the #Beirut attack? [Leader] Sheikh Sirajuddin Zureiqat is set to comment shortly. #Iran #Lebanon #Syria"

    1116: Carine Torbey BBC Arabic, Beirut

    This is a highly secure area but this attack demonstrates that there is nothing, apparently, that can stop suicide bombers getting around and doing what they want. Hezbollah people are on the ground searching everyone in the area. It shows how dangerous the situation in Lebanon has become. Emotions are running really high

    1122: Breaking News

    The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, a Lebanese Sunni jihadist group affiliated to al-Qaeda, has said it carried out the twin suicide bomb attack in Beirut.

    Fernande van Tets

    Beirut based correspondent for Dutch news agency, tweets a photo: House opposite Iranian embassy. Police were picking bits of flesh of supposed suicide bomber off the balcony


    The claim of responsibility for the bombing was made by a cleric close to the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, Sheikh Siraj al-Din Zureiqat, in the name of the "Saraya al-Hussein bin Ali". He warned that attacks would continue in Lebanon until Iranian forces left Syria and prisoners were released in Lebanon. The authenticity of the claim could not be independently verified.


    Iran has denied sending combat troops to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad, but acknowledged sending military personnel to advise and train Syrian government forces. This recent footage from Syria cast doubt on that claim.


    It is tense and chaotic at the site of the blasts:

    A man gestures at the site of a blast in Bir Hassan neighbourhood in southern Beirut on Tuesday

    "People aren't scared anymore. We aren't safe," a mechanic whose store windows were shattered by the blasts tells the Associated Press. "People fight outside [Lebanon], but send their messages through Lebanon. With bombs. It's their SMS service," he adds.


    More from the claim by Sheikh Siraj al-Din Zureiqat, a cleric close to the Abdullah Azzam Brigades. Using the Twitter hashtag "Battle of the Iranian embassy in Beirut", he quotes them as saying: "This is a double martyrdom operation carried out by two heroes from the heroic Sunnis of Lebanon." He adds: "Operations will continue in Lebanon until two demands are met: first, withdrawing Hezbollah members from Syria; second, releasing our prisoners from jails of injustice in Lebanon."

    LBCI News English

    tweets: The #Lebanon vs #Iran #football match will take place as scheduled in #Beirut this afternoon without any spectators.


    The Lebanese army has confirmed the Beirut embassy blasts were both suicide bombings, the AFP news agency reports.

    1156: Jonathan Marcus BBC diplomatic correspondent

    While the Abdullah Azzam Brigades have said they were behind the attack, others have pointed the finger elsewhere - the Iranians at Israel, for example. However, with Iran and Hezbollah being very strong allies of the Syrian government, extremist Sunni groups - who are pretty much allied to rebels fighting in Syria - clearly might well have been perpetrators.


    UK Foreign Secretary William Hague says he strongly condemns the "shocking terrorist attack" on the Iranian embassy in Beirut. "I send my condolences to the families of those killed and injured. The UK is strongly committed to supporting stability in Lebanon and seeing those responsible for this attack brought to justice."


    Meanwhile in Syria, government forces have taken full control of Qara, a town used by rebels to cross from Lebanon, state media report. Qara is 80km (50 miles) north of Damascus and straddles a motorway linking the capital to government strongholds along the Mediterranean coast. The army launched its offensive on Friday, causing about 10,000 Syrians to flee across the border into Lebanon.


    Ahmed Yassine, who works on the same street as the Iranian embassy in Beirut, describes what he saw on Tuesday morning: "I was about 50m [160 feet] away from the explosions. It was two bombs, I think they said two suicide bombers. It was just awful... Many dead bodies, massive destruction, burnt cars. Around six buildings were damaged, some partially, others totally. What I've seen was just awful."


    This file image - dating from just a few weeks ago - has been released of Sheikh Ebrahim Ansari, the cultural attache to the Iranian embassy, who was killed in Tuesday's attack. The mid-ranking Shia cleric had been in Lebanon only a month, embassy officials said.

    File picture taken on 31 October 2013 in Beirut shows Sheikh Ibrahim Ansari, a cultural adviser at the Iranian embassy in the Lebanese capital who died in twin bombings on Tuesday

    Lebanon-based journalist Josh Wood tweets: "Today's Iranian embassy bombing is the 4th big bombing in #Lebanon this year. 3 in August - 2 in Tripoli, one in South Beirut"


    The secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani, tells the Syrian ambassador in Tehran: "Such measures are a sign of desperation of the Zionist regime and terrorist groups in line with them." Adm Shamkhani also reassured the Syrian envoy of Iran's continued support for the "resistance front" in the region.


    Iran's Tasnim news agency is quoting Iran's Islamic Culture and Relations Organisation (ICRO) as saying the cultural attache, Sheikh Ebrahim Ansari, is not dead. Earlier, the Iranian ambassador announced that he had died of the wounds he sustained in the bombings.

    1243: Paul Wood BBC News, Beirut

    There have been attacks in Shia South Beirut before, but everyone knows an attack on the Iranian embassy is something much different. I just spoke to a senior Hezbollah MP who said that undoubtedly this was payback for what was happening in Syria, but also an attempt to foment sectarian strife inside Lebanon. Everyone is watching and waiting to see what the consequences of this attack will be.


    Iran's foreign ministry spokeswoman, Marzieh Afkham, has now told the official Irna news agency that the Iranian cultural attache's condition is "critical", but that he is still showing "signs of life".


    Angelina Eichhorst, the European Union's envoy in Lebanon, condemns the bombing on Twitter, calling it a "despicable senseless act of violence causing death of too many innocent people".


    Ahmad M Yassine of the Lobnene blog tweets: "The #Iranian Embassy guards arrests suspected man #Lebanon #Beirut pic.twitter.com/dbQm0kDHLh"

    Man being taken away by Iranian embassy guards in Beirut

    Mohammed Albasha, spokesman of the Yemeni government in Washington, tweets: "Yemen's envoy to Lebanon Ali Aldailami bruised after the powerful blast @ Iran's embassy in Beirut jolted his body inside Yemen's embassy." He also posts a photo of the damaged door to the ambassador's office.

    Damaged door inside the Yemeni embassy in Beirut
    1313: Paul Wood BBC News, Beirut

    Lebanese officials say they have been putting together what happened from viewing security camera footage. A man rushed towards the outer wall of the embassy and detonated a suicide bomb - the second explosion was caused by a car bomb. The extensive damage ranged from the gates of the embassy all the way up the street.


    Emile Hokayem of the International Institute for Strategic Studies tweets: "Another tragic day and innocent victims in Lebanon. Regional turmoil and irresponsible local players but also weak state to blame."


    Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, has condemned the "terrorist and cowardly attack", which he said was aimed at creating further tension in Lebanon, according to the Naharnet news website. Mr Mikati called on all sides to exercise self-restraint and warned international actors to stop using the country "as a mailbox".


    Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, who was tasked with forming a new government in April, was quoted as saying: "The best response to the evil scheme is to be patient and fortify our unity".

    1329: Amir Paivar BBC Persian

    In terms of the reaction from Iran, we're getting very strong condemnation from all kinds of Iranian officials. I can't help but think that just a day before nuclear negotiations with world powers in Geneva, this is serving a second purpose of dragging Iran into a conflict which will only serve hardliners on both sides. Iran is in a difficult position. If it responds with a heavy hand now, at a time when it is about to meet world powers, it will lose. But if it doesn't, it weakens Iran's position.


    We are now closing this live page. For the latest updates and reaction, head to the BBC News homepage. To recap, two explosions at the Iranian embassy in Beirut have killed more than 20 people and wounded almost 150. A Lebanese Sunni group linked to al-Qaeda has said two suicide bombers targeted the embassy, but Iranian officials have accused Israel.


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