In the worst domestic attack on innocents since the end of Lebanon’s civil war decades ago, at least 43 people have died after suicide bombings hit Beirut last Thursday. Terror organization ISIS has since claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The Lebanese capital was hit by two suicide bombings in a predominantly Shiite stronghold. The attackers detonated in an extremely busy shopping street next to a Shiite mosque and a nearby bakery, wounding more than 200 people. A third bomber who failed to discharge was found at the scene and apprehended by authorities. It is the worst attack reported in Lebanon since 1990, and no major attacks have occurred in the area since June 2014.
ISIS has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack on social media, however these reports have not been verified. Last year, the organization claimed responsibility for a car bomb that also went off in the capital. There are reports that the third bomber taken into custody claimed he was an ISIS recruit, however this is also unconfirmed. It is reported that the bombers were comprised of two Palestinians and one Syrian, but conflicting reports claim the third bomber was a Lebanese national. On Sunday, Interior Minister Nuhad Mashnuq announced that authorities had detained seven Syrians and two Lebanese for allegedly smuggling attackers into the country and assisting in planning the fatal explosions, three days after the attack.
It is widely expected that the bombings were in retaliation for Hezbollah’s presence in Syria. The Shiite militia based in Lebanon– who vehemently supports the Assad regime– has had an influential presence in the Syrian civil war since the beginning of 2013. The BBC reports that the attacks could be acts of retaliation against the recent reinforcements sent by Hezbollah to Syria to support the northern offensive against ISIS. Alternatively, the move could be a part of the sectarian war between the two: ISIS militants are Sunni extremists and consider Hezbollah as ‘denier of their faith.’
The attacks have been a part of a chain of attacks claimed by ISIS over the last month: ISIS also claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian passenger jet over the Sinai Peninsula and the Paris attacks on Friday night.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam called for a national day of mourning following the attacks. He condemned the attacks, calling them ‘unjustifiable,’ and has called for peace and unity in the face of attempts to create strife in the multi-factional country:
‘We condemn this cowardly act and call on the Lebanese to be aware and united in the face of these plans which aim to divide us.’