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Iran blames Israel for Beirut blasts as Al-Qaeda offshoot lays claim

Published time: November 19, 2013 12:02
Edited time: November 19, 2013 21:39
A security personnel officer looks back as he walks past a burnt motorcycle at the site of explosions near the Iranian embassy in Beirut November 19, 2013.(Reuters / Mahmoud Kheir)

A security personnel officer looks back as he walks past a burnt motorcycle at the site of explosions near the Iranian embassy in Beirut November 19, 2013.(Reuters / Mahmoud Kheir)

The Al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades have claimed responsibility for the Beirut Iranian embassy suicide blast which killed 23 and injured a further 146. Meanwhile, the Iranian Foreign Ministry has stated that Israeli mercenaries were responsible.

The Brigades, a Lebanese Al-Qaeda-affiliated Sunni jihadist group, stated that it instigated the twin suicide bomb attack in Beirut, according to Reuters.

The Abdullah Azzam Brigades' leader, Sheikh Siraj al-Din Zureiqat forewarned that armed assaults would continue across Lebanon until Iranian forces left Syria and captives were released. Iran has firmly denied sending troops to Syria in support of President Bashar Assad’s government, while publicly recognizing its sending of military personnel to help train and advise Syrian forces.

"It was a double martyrdom operation by two of the Sunni heroes of Lebanon," Zureiqat wrote on Twitter.

The US Department of State designates the Abdallah Azzam Brigades (AAB) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). It has been in existence since 2009 and has “repeatedly articulated its intent to carry out attacks against Western interests in the Middle East,” according to the US DoS website.

It has also been responsible for rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. However, the group has been known to assume false responsibility in the past.

Moments before the claim was made, the Iranian ambassador to Lebanon, Ghadanfar Roknabadi, said that there was no doubt that the Iranian embassy was the target of the explosions and that they were “proud to be ahead in confronting the Israeli schemes.” He added that the blast served Zionist entity schemes, according to Lebanon’s TV station Al-Manar. 

Rescuers and military policemen work on the site of a double suicide bombing outside Iran's embassy in Bir Hassan neighbourhood in southern Beirut on November 19, 2013. (AFP Photo)

The cultural attaché of the embassy, Ebrahim al-Ansari, was been confirmed dead. Roknabadi said that he had been ‘martyred’. Other embassy staff members were later confirmed to be safe.

The Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said terrorists are trying to undermine the P+1 talks, after an Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman accused Israel of being behind the blasts.

Zarif did not reiterate the claim against Israel pronounced by his ministry but said: "We have reason to be suspicious of every move they make. Every move they make is about spreading tension."

The foreign minister also said that the situation of the rising extremism is alarming and warned that unless we deal with it seriously, "it will engulf all of us.”

“Once we see a flare-up of the tension that is boiling in Syria there will hardly a possibility of stopping it at the Syrian border, or even in the Middle East.”

The Chairman of the Knesset's Security and Foreign Affairs Committee denied any possible involvement of Israel in the attack.

“We are blamed for everything that happens in the Middle East. Sometimes there are things we take responsibility for, because they have to do with Israel's security, ... but Israel's security gains nothing from the bloodshed in Beirut,”
Tzachi Hanegbi said, as quoted by Xinhua.

The harrowing scene was primarily caused by 100lb (50kg) of explosives loaded into a car, according to AP. Security sources on the ground said there were two blasts - the first caused by a person on a motorbike carrying some 4.4lbs (2kg) of explosive, while the second was by a suicide bomber who tried to ram the compound with the car.

However, there are conflicting reports as to how the initial blast unfolded. Eyewitnesses claimed that a man was mounted on a motorbike, while a Lebanese official told Reuters that the man wearing an explosives belt was seen rushing towards the embassy’s outer wall before blowing himself up.

Witnesses at the scene said that the explosions occurred within one or two minutes of each other.