Beirut FFeb 19- A double suicide car bombing targeted an Iranian cultural centre in Beirut Wednesday, killing at least four people in the latest attack linked to the conflict in neighbouring Syria.
The attack was quickly claimed by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, a jihadist group inspired by Al Qaeda which previously claimed an attack against Iran’s embassy in Beirut.
Jihadists have carried out a string of attacks targeting both Iran and the Shiite Hezbollah movement, both of which have provided 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.
An AFP photographer at the scene said the blasts had occurred beyond a security checkpoint at the Iranian cultural centre, close to the building.
The explosions sent a large plume of smoke over the area and Lebanese television showed scenes of widespread destruction.
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.
– Iran and ‘its party’ –
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, an Al Qaeda 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 centres, 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.”
Hezbollah acknowledged last year that it has dispatched forces to bolster Assad’s troops against a Sunni dominated uprising that began in March 2011.
The group says its involvement is necessary to protect Lebanon from Sunni extremists, but critics accuse it of embroiling Lebanon in its neighbour’s conflict.