Deadly blasts in Lebanon: 42 killed, over 500 wounded

Deadly blasts in Lebanon: 42 killed, over 500 wounded (Reuters) / 24 August 2013 Twin explosions hit two mosques in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on Friday, killing at least 42 people and wounding hundreds, intensifying the sectarian strife that has spilled over from the civil war in neighbouring Syria.   Rescuers carry a body outside one of two mosque hit by explosions in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on Friday. — Reuters The apparently coordinated blasts — the biggest and deadliest in Tripoli since the end of Lebanon’s own civil war — struck as locals were finishing Juma prayers. Lebanese officials appealed for calm. The explosions in Tripoli, 70km from Beirut came a week after a huge car bomb killed at least 24 people in a part of the capital Beirut that is controlled by militant movement Hezbollah. A recent resurgence of sectarian violence in Lebanon has been stoked by the conflagration in Syria, where President Bashar Al Assad is fighting a rebellion. Both Hezbollah and radical groups in Lebanon have sent fighters over the border to support opposing sides in Syria. Medical and security sources said the death toll from Friday’s blasts in Tripoli had risen to 42 by late afternoon. Hundreds more were wounded, they said. Earlier, the Lebanese Red Cross said more than 500 people were wounded. The first explosion hit the Taqwa Mosque and killed at least 14 people there, according to ac-counts earlier in the day. Further deaths were reported from a second blast outside Al Salam Mosque, which the Interior Ministry said was hit by a car laden with 100kg of explosives. A Reuters reporter at the scene said the crater from the blast was about four metres wide and 2.5 metres deep and the floors of the mosque were covered in blood. A 50-metre stretch of the road was charred black and the twisted remains of cars littered the area. “We were just bowing down to pray for the second time and the bomb went off. The air cleared, and I looked around me and saw bodies,” said Samir Jadool, 39. Lebanon’s Red Cross said more than 500 people were wounded in the two explosions. Television footage showed people running through the streets, some of them carrying bloodied victims. Near the Taqwa Mosque blast site, angry men toting AK-47 assault rifles took to the streets and fired in the air while other men threw rocks at Lebanese soldiers nearby. Video obtained by local news channel LBC showed the moment of the explosion at Al Salam mosque. The blast ripped through a wall of the mosque, showering clouds of dust on people sitting on prayer mats and sending dozens running out of the building. Lebanese officials called for calm as tensions rose in Tripoli, a Mediterranean port that has seen some of the worst Syria crossover violence. Former internal security chief Ashraf Rifi, whose home was damaged by the second blast, warned that Lebanon was facing a gathering storm of violence. “We are still in the beginning of the storm and we must remain aware and try to protect this nation,” he said, speaking outside his home. “This storm has become a huge, grave danger.” Witnesses at the scene of the blasts said anger was rising among locals, who were shouting out accusations that Assad’s government or Hezbollah were behind the attack. Hezbollah released a statement condemning the Tripoli blasts and expressing solidarity with the victims, saying they were targets of efforts to fan more violence in Lebanon. “We consider this the completion of an effort to plunge Lebanon into chaos and destruction,” the statement said. People gather outside the mosque on the site of a powerful explosion in Tripoli. — AFP Hezbollah’s political opponents called on the group to withdraw its forces from Syria in response to Friday’s attack. Lebanese Defence Minister Fayez Ghosn warned against being dragged into deeper sectarian bloodshed. “We are calling for calm and vigilance, because the aim of this (blasts) is to stoke strife between sects,” he told LBC. Taylor Scott International

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