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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Two suicide bombers hit Hezbollah bastion in Lebanon, 43 killed

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Reuters Deadly explosions rock southern Beirut (00:44) Replay Lebanese PM offers his resignation Vigil in Sassine square Beirut Beirut security tight ahead of al-Hassan funeral Violence at Beirut protest 12:09 PM EST | 00:44 Deadly explosions rock southern Beirut By Mariam Karouny and Laila Bassam BEIRUT (Reuters) - At least 37 people were killed and more than 181 wounded on Thursday in two suicide bomb blasts claimed by Islamic State in a crowded district in Beirut's southern suburbs, a stronghold of the Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah. The explosions were the first attacks in more than a year to target a Hezbollah stronghold inside Lebanon, and came at time when the group is stepping up its involvement in the Syrian civil war -- a fight which has brought Sunni Islamist threats and invective against the Iran-backed Shi'ite group. Hezbollah has sent many hundreds of fighters to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces in the four-year-old conflict over the border. Government forces backed by Hezbollah and Iranian troops have intensified their fight against mostly Sunni insurgents including Islamic State since Russia launched an air campaign in support of Assad on Sept. 30. Syria's civil war is increasingly playing out as a proxy battle between regional rivals including Iran and Saudi Arabia, which supports the rebels. The two foes also back opposing political forces in Lebanon, which suffered its own civil war from 1975 to 1990, and where a political crisis has been brought about by factional and sectarian rivalries. The blasts occurred almost simultaneously late on Thursday and struck a Shi'ite community center and a nearby bakery in the commercial and residential area of Borj al-Barajneh, security sources said. A closely guarded Hezbollah-run hospital is also nearby. Islamic State said in a statement posted online by its supporters that its members blew up a bike loaded with explosives in Borj al-Barajneh and that when onlookers gathered, a suicide bomber blew himself up among them. The group said the attacks killed 40 people. Hezbollah vowed to continue its fight against "terrorists", warning of a "long war" against its enemies. Medics rushed to treat the wounded after the explosions, which damaged shopfronts and left the street stained with blood and littered with broken glass. ADVERTISEMENT Related Coverage Hezbollah vows to continue fight against 'terrorists' after Beirut attacks 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 detonated his own bomb. His body was found nearby. It was a blow to Hezbollah'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. 'UNJUSTIFIABLE ATTACKS' A series of bomb blasts struck Lebanon in 2013 and 2014, including attacks on Hezbollah strongholds. Most of them were claimed by Sunni militants in response to Hezbollah sending fighters to Syria to fight in support of Assad. RELATED VIDEO Video 00:32 Two suicide bombings strike in Lebanon Hezbollah's involvement has brought many threats against it in Lebanon. Security forces say they have foiled a number of attacks inside the country recently and dismantled terror cells. A security source said a man wearing a suicide vest was arrested in Tripoli on Thursday, and a bomb dismantled in the northern city. 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. France's foreign ministry also condemned the attacks. Related Coverage Islamic State group claims responsibility for suicide attacks in Beirut's southern suburbs France condemns attack on Lebanese Hezbollah bastion The war in Syria, with which Lebanon shares a border of more than 300 km (190 miles), has ignited sectarian strife in the multi-confessional country, leading to bombings and fighting between supporters of the opposing sides in Syria. Gun battles broke out in Tripoli last year in clashes that involved the army and Islamist militants, and there are regular infiltrations of Islamists from Syria into a Lebanese border town which still draw army or Hezbollah fire. The bombers also struck as Lebanese lawmakers held a legislative session for the first time in over a year. A 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 for 15 years by its own civil war. (Additional reporting by John Davison; Editing by Ralph Boulton) =================================== Jordan attacker buried amid chants of 'Death to America' Nov. 12, 2015 12:14 PM EST Anwar Abu Zaid Mourners carry the body of Jordanian police Cpt. Anwar Abu Zaid, 28 wrapped with a Jordanian flag, ... Read more RIMON, Jordan (AP) — Thousands of mourners chanted "Death to America, Death to Israel" during the funeral Thursday of a Jordanian police captain who killed five people, including two American instructors, in a shooting rampage at a police training center this week. It remains unclear if the shooter had political or personal motives. Anwar Abu Zaid's family has argued that he was both a victim and a martyr" for killing the Americans. His brother Fadi led about 3,000 marchers in the funeral procession. Fadi accused the government of trying cover up Monday's events at the training center, and demanded that security camera footage be released. Jordan's government has said little about the shooting. The incident has raised questions about the kingdom's image as an island of relative stability in a turbulent region. Mourners chant anti-U.S. slogans during the funeral of Jordanian police Cpt. Anwar Abu Zaid, 28, at the cemetery of his home village of Rimoun, near the city of Jerash, Jordan, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015. The police captain opened fire Monday on instructors at an international police training center in Jordan's capital, killing at least five people, including two Americans, before being shot dead by security forces. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser) ================================== Twin suicide blasts in Beirut's Shiite suburb kill 43 By BASSEM MROUE Nov. 12, 2015 4:30 PM EST APTOPIX Mideast Lebanon People gather near the site of a twin suicide attack in Burj al-Barajneh, southern Beirut, Lebanon,... Read more BEIRUT (AP) — Twin suicide bombings struck a southern Beirut suburb that's a stronghold of the militant Shiite Hezbollah group on Thursday evening, killing at least 43 people and wounding scores more in one of the deadliest attacks in recent years in Lebanon. The attack was quickly claimed by the extremists Islamic State group, which is fighting in neighboring Syria and Iraq but has not had a recognized affiliate in Lebanon, though the tiny Mediterranean country has seen deadly spillovers from the civil war next door. The explosions hit minutes apart during rush hour in an area of southern Beirut called Burj al-Barajneh, a Hezbollah stronghold. The Shiite group has been fighting in Syria along with Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces. The area has been hit in the past and Sunni militant groups have threatened to carry out more attacks there. Along with the 43 killed, the bombings also wounded 239 people, the Health Ministry announced. It was not immediately clear how many attackers were involved. According to a Lebanese security official, the first suicide attacker detonated his explosives' vest outside a Shiite mosque, while the second blew himself up inside a nearby bakery. An apparent third attacker was found dead, his legs blown off while he still wore an intact explosives' belt, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. The official speculated that the third man may have been killed from the explosion set off by the second bomber, as he was reportedly close to that blast. The Al-Mayadeen TV also reported there was a third would-be bomber, and showed a video of a bearded young man with an explosives' belt. The report said he died before he was able to detonate his explosives. At the scene of the blasts, residents showed reporters what they said were metal pebbles that are usually put inside an explosive belt to inflict maximum casualties. "They targeted civilians, worshippers, unarmed people, women and elderly, they only targeted innocent people," Hezbollah official Bilal Farhat told The Associated Press, calling it a "satanic, terrorist attack." Hospitals in southern Beirut called on people to donate blood and appealed on residents not to gather at hospital gates so that ambulanced and emergency staff could work unhindered. For more than an hour, ambulances struggled to ferry the wounded and the dead from the neighborhood while Lebanese troops and Hezbollah gunmen cordoned off the area, preventing anyone from getting close to the site of the two blasts, less than 50 meters (yards) apart. "There is a massacre inside and we will not let you take photos," a Hezbollah member screamed at an Associated Press photographer at the scene. Hezbollah called on people to leave all coffee shops in the area, which are usually packed with customers on Thursday evenings, and urged residents to inform the group about any suspicious activities. Prime Minister Tammam Salam condemned the "cowardly criminal act," urging the Lebanese to unite. U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag also denounced the "heinous attack," stressing the need for those responsible to be brought to justice and saying that the international community was standing by Lebanon. The Islamic State group posted its claim of responsibility on social media pages linked to the Sunni militant group. The claim could not be independently verified but it was similar to other IS claims. IS said the attack was carried out by detonating an explosives-laden motorcycle close to a gathering of Shiites — a likely reference to the mosque — and that it was followed by a suicide bomber wearing an explosives vest. The statement made no mention of a third, would-be bomber. "Let the Shiite apostates know that we will not rest until we take revenge in the name of the Prophet (Muhammad)," the IS claim said. Thursday's attack shattered a period of relative calm in Lebanon. It was the first such large-scale bombing since mid-2014, and comes amid much political upheaval in the country. It was also the deadliest attack in Lebanon since Aug. 23, 2013, when two car bombs exploded outside two Sunni mosques packed with worshippers in the northern city of Tripoli, killing 47 people and wounding hundreds. Lebanon has been without president for over a year. The country has seen major protests in the past few months over the government's inability to agree on a solution for a festering garbage crisis, and parliament has not functioned properly for years. A spate of similar bombings in 2013 and 2014 targeted Hezbollah strongholds in retaliation for the group's involvement in the Syrian civil war, which has angered Sunni groups across the Middle East. As for the Islamic State group, this is the second attack claimed by IS so far in Beirut, after a January 2014 bombing in the district of Haret Hreik, also a Shiite neighborhood in the Lebanese capital, according to the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks militant messaging on the Internet. Among those killed in Thursday's blasts were two staffers of the American University of Beirut, according to a memo circulated to the AUB community. The memo did not give the names of the staffers or other details. In Iran, which is a key ally of the Lebanese Hezbollah, a statement from the Foreign Ministry condemned the Beirut blasts and offered condolences to government and people of Lebanon. Syria's civil war has spilled over into Lebanon on multiple occasions, inflaming sectarian tensions between the country's Sunnis and Shiites and leaving scores dead. The Lebanese Sunni and Shiite communities have lined up on opposing side of Syria's civil war — Sunnis broadly support the Sunni rebels fighting against Assad while the Shiites typically back Assad. Lebanon also hosts more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees — equivalent to a quarter of the country's entire population. =========================================== Suicide bomb in Baghdad kills at least 18: sources Suicide bomb in Baghdad kills at least 18: BAGHDAD (Reuters) - At least 18 people were killed and 41 wounded when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive belt at the funeral of a pro-government Shi'ite Muslim fighter in a southwestern Baghdad district on Friday, police and medical sources said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, but the ultra-hardline Sunni militants of Islamic State who control large parts of the country's north and west frequently set off bombs in the capital.

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