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Suicide bombs strike Iran's embassy

Suicide bombers have killed 23 people and injured more than 140 near the Iranian Embassy in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, among them an Iranian diplomat.

The mid-morning blasts hit Beirut's upmarket district of Janah, a stronghold of the Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim Hezbollah group. One explosion blew out the large black main gate of the Iranian mission.

It was not clear if the bombings were related to the conflict next door in Syria, but attacks have targeted Hezbollah strongholds in recent months in what many see as retaliation by Sunni extremists for the militant Shiite group's role in the Syrian civil war.

Hezbollah fighters have been fighting alongside Syrian president Bashar Assad's forces against largely Sunni rebels seeking to topple his government.

Two Iranians were among the dead, including diplomat as Sheikh Ibrahim Ansari who took up his post as cultural attaché only a month ago and was overseeing all regional cultural activities.

The first blast was believed to have been carried out by a suicide attacker who rode a motorcycle and blew himself up outside the gate. The second explosion, which caused much more damage, was probably a car bomb.

"We tell those who carried out the attack, you will not be able to break us," Hezbollah's Ali Mikdad told Al-Mayadeen TV. "We got the message and we know who sent it and we know how to retaliate."

Iran has been one of Assad's strongest supporters, supplying him with money and weapons since the Syrian crisis began in March 2011.

-AP

An al-Qaida-linked group has claimed responsibility for the bombings. The obscure Abdullah Azzam Brigades said it will continue with attacks until Hezbollah withdraws its forces from Syria.

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