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Beirut blasts kill 23, Al Qaeda-linked group claims hand

Beirut blasts kill 23, Al Qaeda-linked group claims hand

Beirut: Deadly twin blasts in Lebanon's capital Beirut Tuesday claimed 23 lives, including that of an Iranian diplomat, and injured 146, with an Al Qaeda-aligned group claiming responsibility.

Ali Hassan Khalil, Lebanon's caretaker health minister, said that the toll from the blast, which took place near the Iranian embassy in the suburbs, could rise, Xinhua cited the state-run National News agency (NNA) as saying.

Earlier, the NNA said a suicide bomber blew himself up in a parking lot near the embassy at 10.15 a.m. followed by another suicide bomber who blew up a bobby-trapped car near the embassy.

A security source estimated that around 100 kg of TNT was used in the explosions.

Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati called Iran's Ambassador to Lebanon Ghadanfar Roknabadi and conveyed his condolences over those killed.

Roknabadi confirmed Tuesday the killing of the embassy's cultural attache Sheikh Ibrahim Al Ansari in the explosions.

Roknabadi, in a statement, said he has "no doubts that the twin explosions targeted the embassy" and accused Israel of being behind the crime.

The Lebanese Army Guidance Directorate said in a communique that "two explosions occurred in Beirut's southern suburbs near the Iranian embassy which caused a number of casualties and heavy material damages".

"Security forces cordoned the scene of the explosion and launched immediate investigations," the communique added.

Meanwhile, Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said the bombings were inhuman and vicious acts perpetrated by Israel and its terror agents.

"Tehran will seriously follow up the criminal act with due consideration," Marzieh Afkham was quoted as saying by IRNA.

Israel denied Iran's accusations that it was behind the blasts that took place in a Shia stronghold of Beirut.

However, later in the day, the Al-Qaeda-aligned Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for Tuesday's deadly twin bombings of the Iranian embassy in Beirut, AKI reported citing a cleric linked to the group as stating on Twitter.

"The Abdullah Azzam brigades... are behind the attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut," Sheikh Sirajeddine Zuraiqat, the group's religious guide, wrote on the microblogging website.

The Sunni jihadist Abdullah Azzam Brigades began operating between 2004 and 2009 as an offshoot of Al-Qaeda in Iraq and has affiliates in a number of countries.

The Lebanese branch is called the Ziad al-Jarrah Battalion, and is named after Ziad al-Jarrah, a Lebanese citizen who was one of the masterminds of the Sep 11, 2001, attacks on the US.

The Abdullah Azzam Brigades earlier claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on northern Israel from Lebanon Aug 22.

The bombings were condemned by the Syrian and Lebanese governments.


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