Islamic State claims Beirut bombings that kill 43
More than 240 were wounded in attacks on Hizbullah stronghold in Lebanon suburb
Residents inspect the damage caused by two explosions in Beirut’s southern suburbs in Lebanon. Photograph: Hasan Shaaban/Reuters
At least 43 people were killed and more than 240 wounded on Thursday in two suicide bomb blasts in a crowded district in Beirut’s southern suburbs, a stronghold of the Shia Muslim group Hizbullah.
The blasts occurred almost simultaneously and struck a Shia community centre and a nearby bakery in the commercial and residential area of Borj al-Barajneh, security sources said. A closely guarded Hizbullah-run hospital is also nearby.
The bombings were the first attacks for more than a year in a stronghold of the Iran-backed movement, which has sent members to Syria to fight alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the country’s civil war.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Several bomb blasts struck Lebanon in June last year, in a spillover of violence linked to Syria.
The war in Lebanon’s larger neighbour, with which it shares a border of more than 300km, has ignited sectarian strife in the multi-confessional country, leading to bombings and fighting between supporters of the opposing sides in Syria.
Hizbullah supports Mr Assad; Sunni Islamists support rebels fighting against him and his Shia backers.
Interior minister Nouhad Machnouk gave the latest death toll. He also said a third suicide bomber had been killed by one of the explosions before he could detonate his own bomb. His body was found nearby.
Medics rushed to treat the wounded after the explosions, which damaged shopfronts and left the street stained with blood and littered with broken glass.
It was a blow to Hizbullah’s tight security measures in the area, which were strengthened following bombings last year. The army had also set up checkpoints around the southern suburb entrances.
Lebanon’s prime minister Tammam Salam condemned the attacks as “unjustifiable”, and called for unity against “plans to create strife” in the country, urging officials to overcome their differences.
The bombers struck as Lebanese lawmakers held a legislative session for the first time in over a year. An ongoing political crisis has left the country without a president for 17 months, with the government failing to take even basic decisions.
Religious leaders warned last year that in the absence of a head of state, sectarian strife was threatening a country that was gripped by its own civil war from 1975 to 1990.