Two explosions targeting the Iranian Embassy in Beirut has left 26 people dead and 146 wounded.
According to Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA), the Lebanese army said that the first explosion was carried out by a suicide bomber on a motorcycle that attacked the embassy. The second explosion, which occurred just minutes later, was from a much larger car bomb. It is believed the second explosion caused most of the injuries and damage to the adjacent buildings.
Ghazanfar Rokn Abadi, Iran’s ambassador in Lebanon, said that Ebrahim Ansari, Iran’s cultural attaché in Lebanon, was killed during the explosions. According to Fars News, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Marzieh Afkham said Ansari’s death has not been confirmed. Many Iranian websites, however, including ISNA, treated Ansari’s death as though it were fact, publishing his biography and pictures.
Afkham blamed “Zionist mercenaries” for the attack, as Iranian and Hezbollah officials typically do in order to decrease sectarian tension when such explosions take place. However, Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi directly blamed Saudi Arabia, according to Fars News.
A jihadist group affiliated with al-Qaeda, the Abudullah Azam Brigades, took responsibility for the attack on their Twitter account. Many Sunni groups have condemned Iran’s and Hezbollah’s support for Assad in the Syrian civil war, which has stoked sectarian tensions in the region, raising Iran and Saudi Arabia’s proxy wars in the Middle East to new heights. In October, Sunni militant group Jaish al Adl (Army of Justice) took credit for an attack on Iranian conscripts which killed 14 people, and also said the attack was in part revenge for Iran’s role in Syria.
Iran’s ambassador in Beirut said that Iran would not retreat in the face of such attacks.
“We give this message to the agents of the terrorist act near Iran’s embassy in Beirut: We will never retreat one fingertip from our positions,” said Rokn Abadi in an interview with Arabic news channel Al Alam, which is owned by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting.
Rokn Abadi continued, “From today on, we will insist on our position more, and these kinds of operations — they not only will not have an influence, but will make us more resolute.” He added, “We have ideals and principles, and in Syria we are pursuing interests. We are leading the confrontation line for anti-Zionist and anti-arrogance projects in the region.”
The attack has been condemned by French President Francois Hollande and British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
Update: Lebanon’s health minister has confirmed that Iran’s cultural attaché, Ebrahim Ansari, has died from injuries as a result of the explosions.