An Islamic extremist group claiming retaliation for Iran's involvement in Syria reportedly detonated two suicide bombs outside the Iranian embassy in Beirut, Lebanon early Tuesday, killing at least 25.
Reuters reports al-Qaida linked group Abdullah Azzam Brigades, based in Lebanon, claimed responsibility for the attack on the Iranian embassy compound in the western portion of the coastal town. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Lebanese militant political group Hezbollah are believed to have sent elite forces into neighboring Syria in recent months to assist President Bashar Assad in his ongoing fight against a rebel insurgency there.
Multiple tweets reportedly depicting the site of the blast included pictures of smoldering vehicles and windows blown out of the multi-story compound. First responders pushed through growing crowds to get to the victims.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) November 19, 2013
Bodies were strewn throughout the blast site, causing at least 150 injuries. The Iranian cultural attache is among the growing number of dead.
— KATU News (@KATUNews) November 19, 2013
The L.A. Times cites tweets from the al-Qaida group, demanding the release of prisoners from Lebanese jails and the withdrawal of Hezbollah forces from Syria. The rebel movement in Syria has come under increased scrutiny from the West as a growing number of outside extremist forces are joining the home-grown rebellion. Secretary of State John Kerry said Oct. 11 these forces make up between 15 and 25 percent of the rebel fighters.
Two attackers bearing explosive vests, one in a car and the other on a motorcycle, reportedly drove up to the embassy compound and detonated the bombs a couple minutes apart shortly after 10 a.m., according to the Lebanese news agency the Daily Star. The embassy is located in the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Bir Hasan.
Five locals, including guards and a nurse, were among the wounded, according to the Star.
A Hezbollah official indicated Israel may have been involved in the attacks.
"The attack is similar to the racially vindictive approach of the Zionist enemy," said Mohammad Raad, head of Hezbollah's block in parliament.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has been a longtime proponent of U.S. intervention in Syria, and has blasted the Obama administration for not acting before extremist groups took hold.
"#Syria conflict continues to widen…" he tweeted Tuesday morning.
The blast comes at a time of heightened diplomatic tensions between Iran and the Western world, as it negotiates for restrictions on its nuclear program in exchange for relief from the crippling sanctions imposed on the Middle Eastern nation by the U.S., the U.N. and the European Union.