Skip to main content

Twin bombings rock mosques in Tripoli, Lebanon

By Saad Abedine and Michael Pearson, CNN
updated 1:11 PM EDT, Fri August 23, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • At least 27 dead, 600 wounded in blasts, official says
  • PM designate says "the situation in Lebanon reached a very critical stage"
  • Acting prime minister, U.S. Embassy in Beirut call for calm
  • The explosions struck Friday near two mosques

(CNN) -- A pair of blasts in Lebanon, the magnitude of which have not been seen since the 1980s, is raising fears of heightening sectarian tensions.

The two powerful explosions ripped through neighborhoods near mosques in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on Friday.

At least 27 people died and 600 were wounded in the bombings, Lebanese Red Cross head George Kettanah said. State media reported that the toll could be much higher.

The death toll of these explosions is high compared with the political assassinations that have occurred in the past eight years in Lebanon, but the bigger fear is that civilians could become targets anywhere in the country.

Smoke is seen above people gathering outside a mosque on the site of a powerful explosion in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on Friday, August 23. Two bombings killed dozens of people. The first blast occurred near a mosque led by a Sunni sheikh known for his links to Syrian rebels, Lebanon's state-run National News Agency said. The second occurred minutes later near another mosque, close to the residence of acting Prime Minister Najib Mikati. Smoke is seen above people gathering outside a mosque on the site of a powerful explosion in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on Friday, August 23. Two bombings killed dozens of people. The first blast occurred near a mosque led by a Sunni sheikh known for his links to Syrian rebels, Lebanon's state-run National News Agency said. The second occurred minutes later near another mosque, close to the residence of acting Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
Explosions near Lebanon mosques
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
>
>>
Explosions near Lebanon mosques Explosions near Lebanon mosques
Huge explosion rocks southern Beirut
Turkish pilots kidnapped in Lebanon
Beirut on edge after massive car bomb

While the motive for the attacks was unclear, the state-run National News Agency said they appeared to target mosques run by imams with ties to Syrian rebels.

Lebanon has been the scene of increasing sectarian violence recently, including battles between supporters and opponents of the regime in Lebanon's neighbor to the east, which is currently torn by a bloody civil war.

Interactive map: Syrian civil war isn't just about Syria

The first blast occurred near the Sunni al Taqwa mosque, the National News Agency said.

The second occurred minutes later near al Salam mosque, another Sunni mosque that is close to the residence of acting Prime Minister Najib Mikati, as well as Samir Al-Jisr, a Sunni member of parliament, and the former head of the country's Internal Security Forces, Ashraf Rifi.

Rifi is despised by Hezbollah and Lebanese politicians friendly to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

It was unclear whether any of those figures were targets of the attack, but the news agency said the mosques' two Salafist sheikhs were unharmed.

Mikati is not in Tripoli, the National News Agency reported.

The second blast produced a crater 5 meters (16.4 feet) across and damaged six nearby residential buildings, the news agency said. More than 60 cars were incinerated, the news agency said.

Eyewitness video posted to YouTube purporting to be of the al Taqwa blast showed thick smoke, flames and what appeared to be burning vehicles. Another video posted to Facebook showed a large plume of smoke rising into the air near what is said to be the mosque site.

CNN could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the videos.

Mikati issued a statement via Twitter condemning the bombings.

"We urge our children and brothers in Tripoli to practice self-restraint, and we pledge to them that we will always stand by them, especially during these critical times," he said.

"Tripoli and its residents he will prove once again that they are stronger than the conspiracy and will not allow the strife to undermine their resilience and their faith in God and the homeland," the acting prime minister tweeted.

Tammam Salam, the man designated to become Lebanon's next prime minister, cut short a private trip to Greece after the explosions.

"The crime of Tripoli is further evidence that the situation in Lebanon reached a very critical stage and requires us to be on high alert on the political, national and security levels in order to eradicate the internal strife, and we have to deal with the political decisions in the country with the highest degree of national responsibility," he said in a prepared statement.

The U.S. Embassy in Beirut also condemned the violence and called on Twitter for "calm & restraint."

Hezbollah also condemned the attacks, saying in a statement that the explosions were part of a "criminal scheme aimed at sowing seeds of strife among the Lebanese."

Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite group, is active in southern Lebanon and has been sending its fighters to Syria to help the government there.

A car bombing in a southern suburb of Beirut this month rocked a Hezbollah stronghold, killing at least 22 people and injuring hundreds.

CNN's Nada Husseini contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:28 AM EST, Tue December 30, 2014
With the discovery of debris from the AirAsia plane, investigators move closer to discovering what happened. What are the key questions, and what comes next?
updated 11:40 AM EST, Tue December 30, 2014
The growth of AirAsia has been a regional aviation success story. The reason behind the loss of Flight QZ 8501 will be key to whether passengers start to shun it, says Alan Khee-Jin Tan.
updated 5:45 AM EST, Fri February 7, 2014
They say there are no stupid questions -- but are there? How about, "Do you speak African?"
updated 9:39 AM EST, Wed December 31, 2014
The year of outrage also applies to China's Internet users in 2014.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Sat August 16, 2014
One man swims among sharks without the protection of a cage to make studio-quality, intimate photos of the sea creatures.
updated 6:50 AM EST, Tue December 30, 2014
Using a technology that has been around for 130 years, a company called Pavegen hopes to create electricity from everyday human activities.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist and fatherof the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
updated 7:45 AM EST, Tue December 30, 2014
Gone are the days of grainy phone images with the resolution of a poor imitation Monet.
updated 4:00 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
updated 12:45 PM EST, Mon December 29, 2014
"The year in pictures" treks across the globe, looking back on the events that shaped 2014.
updated 11:07 AM EST, Mon December 29, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT