Two explosions near the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon today (November 19, 2013) killed at least 23 people -- including Iran's cultural attache -- Lebanese and Iranian officials said. The blasts appear to be the latest in a string of sectarian bombings linked to the civil war in neighboring Syria -- which has now spread to Lebanon -- according to the Washington Post.
The first explosion -- which occurred in the Bir Hasan area of the Lebanese capital -- detonated outside the residence of Iranian Ambassador Ghazanfar Roknabadi, Iran's state news agency said. It also said that cultural attache Ibrahim Ansari was killed.
Witnesses said the initial blast brought many residents out onto the street or to their balconies, leaving them vulnerable to a much more powerful second explosion which detonated about two minutes later.
Images from the scene showed bodies lying in the street, and the twisted burning wreckage of cars, while medics rushed some of the injured away on stretchers. Lebanon's Health Ministry said a total of 147 people were wounded.
The Abdullah Azzam Brigade -- an Islamist group with links to al-Qaeda -- claimed responsibility in a message on the social media site Twitter. This is a Sunni Muslim group which has been at war with Shiite Muslims. The attack is designed to convince Lebanon to release its Sunni prisoners and to withdraw its Shiite group Hezbollah from Syria, where they have joined forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad to try to defeat a Sunni uprising.