A pair of explosions at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut this morning has killed at least 23 people, according to various news outlets. More than 140 people have been injured in the blasts. Reuters reports that an Iranian cultural attaché was among those who died in the explosions. Ebrahim Ansari is reported as being the attaché who was killed.
Abdullah Azzam Brigrads claims responsibility
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, a Lebanon-based group which has been linked to the al-Quaida, has claimed the responsibility for the suicide attacks. Sheikh Sirajeddine Zuraiqat, the group’s religious guide, posted on Twitter that they were the ones who carried out the attack, calling it “a double martyrdom operation by two of the Sunni heroes of Lebanon.” The group has threatened additional attacks unless Iran pulls its forces out of Syria. The group is backing the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has been battling rebels in the country for more than two years.
According to Reuters, video from security cameras showed a man wearing a belt with explosives attached to it running toward the embassy’s outer wall right before he blew himself up. The second explosion came from a car bon when went off just two buildings away. The car bomb reportedly did more damage and was more deadly than the blast from the suicide bomber.
Today’s blasts come at a key time
The nation of Lebanon has seen many attacks and clashes between Shi’ite and Sunni Muslim groups which have been linked to the conflict in Syria. Scores of people have already died in these attacks this year. Today’s attacks came the day before expanded talks between Iran and world powers about Iran’s nuclear programs. They were reportedly close to a tentative deal earlier this month.
Assad’s forces have extended their gains in Syria ahead of peace talks with the United Nations. Those talks are expected to begin in the middle of next month, and Iranian officials have said they would attend.