The attack was apparently in retaliation for Lebanese group Hezbollah’s support of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.
Tuesday’s mid-morning blasts hit Beirut’s upscale neighbourhood of Janah, a stronghold of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group. One explosion blew out the main gate of the Iranian mission, damaging the three-storey facility.
An Al Qaeda-linked Sunni extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying more would follow unless the Iranian-backed Shia Hezbollah withdraws fighters that have helped Al Assad’s military score key victories over Syrian rebels.
Iranian ambassador Ghazanfar Roknabadi identified the dead diplomat as Sheikh Ibrahim Ansari. Speaking to Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV, he said Ansari took his post in Lebanon a month ago and was overseeing regional cultural activities. Lebanese Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said 23 people were killed and more than 140 wounded in the blasts.
A Lebanese security official said the first suicide attacker was on a motorcycle that carried 2kg of explosives. He blew himself up at the large black main gate of the Iranian mission.
Less than two minutes later, a second suicide attacker driving a car rigged with 50kg of explosives struck about 10m away, the official said. Debris was scattered on the street and cars were on fire as people ran away from the chaotic scene. Videos showed firefighters extinguishing flames from vehicles, blood-spattered streets and bodies covered with sheets on the ground.
The bombing was one of the deadliest in a string of attacks that have targeted Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon in recent months.