Wednesday 18 September 2019

Lebanon mourns victims of twin suicide bombings

Lebanese army and civilians gather near the site of the twin suicide attack in Lebanon (AP)
Lebanese army and civilians gather near the site of the twin suicide attack in Lebanon (AP)

Schools and universities across Lebanon are shut as the country mourns the victims of twin suicide bombings that struck a crowded suburb in Beirut.

The bombings killed at least 43 people and wounded more than 200 others. It was one of the bloodiest attacks in recent years, and shattered a relative calm that has held despite the civil war raging in Syria.

The attack in the predominantly Shiite neighbourhood of Burj al-Barajneh was claimed by Islamic State.

The heavily populated district is part of the southern suburb of Beirut known as Dahyeh were the militant Hezbollah group holds sway.

Prime Minister Tammam Salam chaired a security meeting to discuss the bombings on Friday. Forensic experts are examining the scene of the blasts.

Residents and shop owners swept up broken glass and other debris from the scene of the attacks.

Nazmiyeh Tarif, whose cousin Adel Termos died in the second bombing, said: "They are people without conscience. May they get worse than what happened to us."

Mr Termos threw himself at the second suicide bomber after he spotted him approaching crowds gathered outside a mosque targeted by the first bomber, local media reported.

At the Rasoul al-Aazam hospital, people turned up to collect the bodies of their loved ones. Some fired into the air with automatic rifles outside the hospital, a typical sign of mourning in Lebanon.

Security was much tighter than usual at entrances to Beirut's southern suburbs, and soldiers at army checkpoints asked for people's IDs and searched cars.

Mr Salam said: "The barbaric crime that took place in Burj al-Barajneh did not target just one region or sect but all of Lebanon from one end to the other."

Lebanon has seen deadly spillovers from the Syrian conflict including a wave of bombings and suicide attacks in 2013 and 2014.

However, Thursday's twin blast was the first since mid-2014 and took people by surprise. It was also one of the deadliest.

The explosions hit minutes apart during rush hour, turning the crowded area into a night-time inferno.

A first suicide attacker detonated his vest outside a Shiite mosque, while the second blew himself up inside a nearby bakery.

For more than an hour, ambulances struggled to ferry the wounded and the dead from the neighbourhood while Lebanese troops and Hezbollah gunmen cordoned off the area, preventing anyone from getting close to the site of the two blasts.

Previous explosions have also targeted Shiite populated areas of Lebanon and have been claimed by militants who say it was payback for Hezbollah's participation in the Syrian civil war.

The group has been fighting in Syria along with Syrian president Bashar Assad's forces.

PA Media

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