Lebanon News

Lebanon mourns ISIS twin blast victims

BEIRUT: Schools and universities were shut Friday as Lebanon mourned the 46 people killed in a twin suicide bombing claimed by ISIS on a market street in a southern Beirut suburb.

An angry mood prevailed in the suburb of Burj al-Barajneh as the first bodies began arriving in the afternoon.

Crowds waved the Amal Movement's green and Hezbollah's yellow flags as mourners fired rifles into the air.

Crews were busy all morning removing debris from the streets as residents were cleaning up after the explosions caused damage to homes and buildings.

It was the first time that schools and universities, both public and private, were ordered closed following a bombing campaign since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis more than four year ago.

Flags were flown at half-staff at the Grand Serail and all public buildings after Prime Minister Tammam Salam announced a national day of mourning. The Lebanese flag at the U.N. peacekeeping force's headquarters in Naqoura was also lowered for a one-day period of mourning.

In the evening, civil society activists from the You Stink and We Want Accountability groups held a candlelight vigil for the victims at the site of the attack.

The suicide blasts, which went off just before 6 p.m. Thursday in the busy Ain al-Sikkeh neighborhood of Burj al-Barajneh, also wounded 239 people.

Lebanese Red Cross official George Kettaneh said five of the wounded were in critical condition.

Forensics scientists were at the scene Friday collecting evidence.

The Lebanese Army said two men wearing suicide vests carried out the attacks. A military statement added that the body of a third suicide attacker who had failed to blow up himself was found at the scene of the second blast.

Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr said investigators were trying to determine whether in fact there was a third suicide bomber.

The probe is also "focused on trying to identify the bombers, where they came from and who is behind them," Saqr said after inspecting the site of the bombing Friday.

He said investigators were looking into the possibility whether a man arrested in the northern city of Tripoli Thursday had any links with the Beirut bombers.

A man wearing an explosive belt was arrested by police in Qibbeh, Tripoli, Thursday.

Sate Prosecutor Samir Hammoud, who accompanied Saqr, said most of the casualties and damage were the result of the first explosion, which weighed seven kilograms.

It was the bloodiest attack since August 2013, when two mosques were bombed in the northern city of Tripoli, killing 47 people.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the Burj al-Barajneh bombings and vowed more attacks against Shiite areas where Hezbollah enjoys wide support.

A statement issued by ISIS late Thursday said "soldiers of the Caliphate detonated explosives planted on a motorbike on the street."

"After the apostates gathered in the area, one of the knights of martyrdom detonated his explosive belt in the middle of [the crowd]," the statement said. Both statements could not be independently verified.

The blasts came as Hezbollah-backed Syrian government troops made military advances against Islamist militants in the province of Aleppo, raising fears that ISIS is bent on retaliating for Hezbollah’s military intervention in the Syrian war.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri postponed a legislative session, originally scheduled for 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday to allow lawmakers to take part in funeral services of the bombing victims.

Parliament, which met for the first time in more than one year Thursday, passed 23 draft laws, including the controversial citizenship bill, a major demand of the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces.

 

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