Despite the claim of responsibility by the Al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades for the Beirut Iranian embassy suicide blast which killed 23 and injured a further 146, the Iranian Foreign Ministry accused Israel of being behind the attack.
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 it is sending 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.
Moments before the claim was made by Abdallah Azzam Brigades, 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.
The cultural attaché of the embassy, Ebrahim al-Ansari, has been confirmed dead. Roknabadi said that he had been ‘martyred’. Other embassy staff members were later confirmed to be safe.
The bombings were “an inhuman crime and spiteful act done by Zionists and their mercenaries,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Marzieh Afkham said in remarks carried by the official IRNA news agency.
Similarly the head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, MP Mohammad Raad, on Tuesday accused Israel of being behind the twin explosions.
“The origin of this sinful and criminal… terrorist act is clear, as the plotting and implementation [of the attack] has a spiteful and aggressive style, which mirrors the racist pattern of the Israeli enemy,” National News Agency quoted the Hezbollah official as saying.
Raad claimed that the objective of the attacks was to “perpetuate a [series of] killings and vandalism, cause chaos, threaten national unity and undermine stability” in the country.
The deadly blasts were caused by 100 lb (45 kg) 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.
According to several Lebanese observers Hezbollah and Iran are trying to blame Israel for the attack in order to avoid linking it to their roles in the increasingly sectarian civil war in Syria and in order to justify any future retaliation against the Jewish state.
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.
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