Twin suicide car bombings targeting the Iranian Cultural Center in a busy Beirut suburb Wednesday killed at least seven people and wounded 128 others, a security source said, local media reported.
The al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for the deadly explosions, describing the attacks as a "raid" against the center in retaliation to Hezbollah and Tehran's role in the Syrian war.
The same group also claimed the Nov. 19 twin suicide attack outside the Iranian Embassy that killed dozens, including an Iranian diplomat.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham strongly condemned the terrorist act.
There is no doubt that the perpetrators of the terrorist act are the enemies of stability, security and unity of Labanon and are the Zionist regime’s allies, Afkham said.
She said that they are disappointed by the formation of the new Lebanese government with the participation of Lebanese groups.
The blasts, which occurred at 9:25 a.m. during rush hour, are the second attack in less than four months targeting Iranian interests in Bir Hasan. The commercial and residential neighborhood is home to the Iranian and Kuwaiti embassies and several television stations.
Lebanon's Internal Security Forces cordoned off the area, and emergency medical personnel were already on the scene, the NNA added. Newly minted Interior Minister Nuhad al-Mashnuq was also on the scene.
One witness, told Al-Akhbar that Wednesday's blast was the third explosion he has witnessed.
"I heard the two explosions immediately," Issam Safewi said, adding that the glass in his building was completely shattered. "I ran onto the street and saw pieces of flesh scattered across the road. There was an entire arm on the street."
"What they're doing is a shame," he added, referring to the persons orchestrating the explosions. "These takfiris, they don't have any religion, they are not Muslim....We are used to this, we are not scared of death."
Ambulances and Civil Defense trucks rushed to the scene of the explosion which was powerful enough to be felt several kilometers away.
The twin attack killed seven people, including a soldier and the two suicide bombers, the source told The Daily Star, adding that several wounded were in critical condition.
Tawhid party, headed by Wiam Wahhab, said one of the victims of the blasts was a member of the group identified as Hamzi Sobh.
Al-Manar Television reported that the soldier grew suspicious of one of the bombers inside the vehicle and stopped him. The bomber then blew up the car.
The Lebanese Army urged citizens whose relatives went missing in the attack to head to Al-Rasoul Al-Azam Hospital to undergo DNA tests in order to identify human remains found on the site.
The military said the "simultaneous attacks" were caused by two vehicles that exploded seconds apart: a Mercedes exploded outside the Iranian Cultural Center while a BMW blew up near the European exhibition center.
Meanwhile, the deadly twin car bomb drew national and international condemnation.
“We got the message, and we will respond by uniting [our ranks] , adhering to civil peace and rallying around the [Lebanese] Army and security forces that have received orders to arrest the perpetrators and bring them to justice quickly,” Prime Minister Tammam Salam said.
"Amid the positive atmosphere that accompanied the birth of the government and had a positive impact on the Lebanese, terrorism dealt Lebanon a new blow through the bombing of a safe civilian area, in a message reflecting the insistence of the forces of evil to inflict harm on Lebanon and its people,” Salam added.
Salam announced a government of "national interest" after ten months of political deadlock.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri echoed Salam's message.
"If the objective of [Wednesday’s] terrorist attack is a message to the Lebanese that Lebanon will not be safe from terrorism after the formation of the government," Hariri said in a statement. "We stress more than ever before the importance of unity among the Lebanese in the face of terrorism and all suspicious attempts to ignite [sectarian] strife and torpedo efforts to safeguard stability."
Hariri held talks Wednesday with Egypt's army chief and Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during a visit to Cairo.
Hariri arrived in Egypt late Tuesday for a two-day visit heading a Future Movement delegation comprised of MPs Samir Jisr and Jamal Jarrah, former MPs Bassem Sabaa and Ghattas Khoury, and Hariri's advisors, Radwan Al Sayyed and Nader Hariri.
Several ministers from Salam’s newly-appointed Cabinet also denounced the bombings after inspecting the scene of the blasts.
Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun wrote on twitter: “No doubt that the terrorists resented the formation of the government, which has pledged to confront them, so they responded with this attack.”
Hezbollah MP Ali Ammar backed his party’s decision not to withdraw its fighters from Syria.
"This heinous crime committed by takfiri terrorists is part of a series of terrorist crimes against the Arab and Muslim world as well as the overall plot aimed at damaging the social fabric and pluralism of the Arab and Muslim worlds,” Ammar said.
“Hezbollah will not withdraw from a battle it deems strategic,” he insisted.
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