After a particularly dreamy few days here in Lebanon after E’s unexpected arrival and a weekend spent careening through the beautiful Bekaa valley, we’ve been brought crashing back to earth by a double suicide bombing in Beirut around 9.30am this morning.
I arrived at the office this morning to find it in a panic. Most people were on their phones frantically checking on friends and family, while others tried to tune the TV to see what the news was saying. My first thought was for E, on his way to the airport – not so very far from the Iranian embassy where the bombs went off – but when I finally got through to him, he had arrived safely and totally unaware of the attack.
Two colleagues who’d been in a car just around the corner from the embassy as the bombs went off were a little shaken, but being Lebanese natives, they shrugged it off. One laughed as he told me he’d been living through worse since he was a boy.
Half an hour later, when we knew that everyone was safe and accounted for, a strangely ordinary calm descended. The day continued just like any other.
I’ve spent the day scouring the news and grilling my colleagues to try to understand what happened this morning. As usual, there are many conflicting accounts, but there seems to be consensus that this was a double suicide bombing, carried out by an Al Qaeda-linked group as a warning to Iran and Hezbollah over their involvement in the Syrian civil war. One bomber in a car and another on a motorbike killed around 23 people, including an Iranian diplomat, and wounded over 150 as they detonated their devices outside the Iranian embassy this morning.
The group that carried out the attack, the Abdullah Azzam Brigade, described it as a “twin martyrdom operation by two heroes of the Sunni in Lebanon.” The group’s spokesman promised that attacks would continue until forces from (Shiite) Hezbollah are withdrawn from Syria. Lebanon’s politics have long been fractured along sectarian lines, but the war in neighbouring Syria has inflamed tensions.
Although most people I know have today reacted with a shrug and a sigh of “well, this is Lebanon…”, many are clearly worried that this morning’s attacks could well mark a dark new chapter in the overspill of the Syrian war.
I’m no expert on regional politics, so if you’re interested to read more, here are some of the highlights of today’s coverage:
- Car bomb kills 25 near Iranian embassy in Beirut (The Daily Star, Lebanon)
- Bombing of Iranian embassy in Beirut raises fears of Syrian spillover (Time.com)
- Bomb blasts kill 23 in Beirut as war in Syria sees sectarianism spread across the border into Lebanon (The Independent)
- Double bombing kills at least 23, including diplomat, near Iranian Embassy in Beirut (The Washington Post)
- Lebanon blasts hit Iran’s embassy in Beirut (BBC)