The Al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades have claimed responsibility for the Beirut Iranian embassy suicide blast which killed 23 and injured a further 146. Meanwhile, the Iranian Foreign Ministry has stated that Israeli mercenaries were responsible.
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 its sending of 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.
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.
Moments before the claim was made, 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, was been confirmed dead. Roknabadi said that he had been ‘martyred’. Other embassy staff members were later confirmed to be safe.
The harrowing scene was caused by 100kg of TNT loaded into a Renault Rapid. Security sources on the ground said there were two blasts – the first caused by a person on a motorbike, while the second was by a suicide bomber who tried to ram the compound with the car.
Witnesses at the scene reported that they occurred within one or two minutes of each other.