Suicide bombs target Iran center in Beirut
By Sara Hussein, AFP
February 20, 2014, 12:20 am TWN
BEIRUT--A double suicide car bombing targeted an Iranian cultural center in Beirut on Wednesday, killing at least four people in the latest attack linked to the conflict in neighboring Syria.
The attack was quickly claimed by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, a jihadist group inspired by al-Qaida which previously claimed a double suicide bombing aimed at Iran's embassy in Beirut.
Jihadists have carried out a string of attacks in Lebanon targeting both Iran and the Shiite Hezbollah movement, which provide vital support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime as it battles a Sunni-led rebellion.
Lebanon's army confirmed the attack was a double suicide car bombing, and Health Minister Wael Abu Faour said four people were killed and 103 wounded.
The explosions sent a large plume of smoke over the area and caused widespread damage.
Emergency teams carried wounded people away from a charred street strewn with rubble, as local residents armed with fire extinguishers helped firefighters put out blazes.
The arms of a wounded man hung limply off the sides of a yellow stretcher as he was carried from the scene.
Children among the Wounded
"I was driving my car with my wife to the university when we were hit by the force of the blast and I found pieces of human flesh on my face," Yousef al-Tawil, a professor at the Lebanese University, told AFP.
Dozens of children at a nearby orphanage witnessed the explosion, with some sustaining cuts and crying, bewildered in the chaotic aftermath.
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, an al-Qaida-inspired group, claimed the "double martyrdom operation" on its Twitter account and pledged to continue its attacks against Iran and "its party" — a reference to Hezbollah.
"We will continue ... to target Iran and its party in Lebanon, in its security and political and military centers, until our demands are achieved," the group said.
"First: that the Party of Iran withdraws its forces from Syria. Second, that our prisoners are released from Lebanese prisons."