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Lebanon’s PM Saad Hariri has decided to “suspend” his resignation, which sparked a crisis when he announced it while in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago.

Saad Hariri said President Michel Aoun had asked him to “put it on hold ahead of further consultations”.

The two men held talks a day after Saad Hariri flew back to Lebanon.


The prime minister has denied that Saudi Arabia forced him to resign and detained him in an attempt to curb the influence of Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah.

Hezbollah is part of a national unity government formed by Saad Hariri in 2016.

Saad Hariri said after November 22 meeting at the Baabda presidential palace: “Today I presented my resignation to his excellency the president, and he asked me to temporarily suspend submitting it and to put it on hold ahead of further consultations on the reasons for it.

“I expressed my agreement to this request, in the hope that it will form a serious basis for a responsible dialogue.”

Image source Wikimedia

Lebanon: PM Saad al-Hariri Resigns Fearing for His Life

Iran Rejects Saad al-Hariri’s Assassination Plot Claims

He said Lebanon required “exceptional effort from everyone” at this time in order to “protect it in confronting dangers and challenges”.

The prime minister also reiterated the need to remain committed to Lebanon’s state policy of “dissociation regarding wars, external struggles, regional disputes and everything that harms internal stability” – an apparent reference to the activities of Hezbollah.

The Shia Islamist movement acknowledges fighting alongside government forces in Syria and Iraq, and arming Palestinian militants. However, it denies advising and sending weapons to rebel forces in Yemen’s civil war and militants in Bahrain.

Saad Hariri was embraced by President Michel Aoun as the two men attended an independence day military parade in Beirut. The president, a Maronite Christian former army commander and ally of Hezbollah who publicly accused Saudi Arabia of detaining the prime minister, appeared to tell him: “Welcome back!”

Saad Hariri left Riyadh for France at the weekend with his wife and one of his three children. He flew to Lebanon on November 21, stopping in Egypt and Cyprus en route.

On November 20, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech that still considered Saad Hariri prime minister and that the militant Shia Islamist movement was “open to any dialogue and any discussing that happens” in Lebanon.

Saad Hariri announced his resignation in a televised address on November 4 from Riyadh, in which he accused Iran of sowing “discord, devastation and destruction” in the region and said he sensed there was an assassination plot against him.

Lebanon’s PM Saad al-Hariri has announced his resignation in a TV broadcast from Saudi Arabia.

Saad al-Hariri also said that he feared for his life, while fiercely criticizing Iran.

He accused Iran of sowing “fear and destruction” in several countries, including Lebanon.

Saad al-Hariri’s father, former PM Rafik al-Hariri, was assassinated in 2005.

The Hariri family is close to Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional competitor.

Saad al- Hariri has been prime minister since December 2016, after previously holding the position between 2009 and 2011.

“We are living in a climate similar to the atmosphere that prevailed before the assassination of martyr Rafik al-Hariri,” he said in the broadcast from Riyadh.

“I have sensed what is being plotted covertly to target my life.”

Image source Wikimedia

Saudi Prince Charged with Drug Smuggling in Lebanon

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Lebanon restricts entry for Syrian refugees

Saad al-Hariri also attacked the Iran-backed Shia movement Hezbollah, which wields considerable power in Lebanon.

Addressing “Iran and its followers”, the prime minister said Lebanon would “cut off the hands that wickedly extend into it”.

Iran said the resignation would create regional tensions and rejected Saad al-Hariri’s accusations as “unfounded”.

Saad al-Hariri has made several visits in the past few days to Saudi Arabia, whose leadership is strongly opposed to Iran.

His announcement came a day after a meeting in Beirut with Ali Akbar Velayati, an advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Kahmenei.

Taking up the prime minister’s office in 2016, Saad al- Hariri promised a “new era for Lebanon” after two years of political deadlock.

The coalition government Saad al-Hariri led brought together almost all of the main political parties in Lebanon, including Hezbollah.

His father, Rafik al-Hariri, was killed by a bomb in 2005 in an attack widely blamed on Hezbollah.

Mustafa Amine Badreddine was killed in artillery fire by jihadists, Lebanese Hezbollah group says.

The death of the Hezbollah’s top military commander in near Damascus airport was announced on May 13 and initially blamed on Israel, Hezbollah’s chief enemy.

Mustafa Badreddine was believed to have run all Hezbollah’s military operations in Syria since 2011.

Thousands of Hezbollah troops are supporting President Bashar al-Assad.

This has pitted it against several groups of anti-Assad rebels – from ISIS to the al-Nusra Front.Mustafa Badreddine death

Without naming any group, the Hezbollah statement said: “Investigations have showed that the explosion, which targeted one of our bases near Damascus International Airport, and which led to the martyrdom of commander Mustafa Badreddine, was the result of artillery bombardment carried out by takfiri groups in the area.”

Takfiri is used to describe militants who believe Muslim society has reverted to a state of non-belief.

The Lebanese Shia Islamist movement has played a major role in helping Iran, its main military and financial backer, to prop up the government of President Bashar al-Assad since the uprising erupted in 2011.

Thousands of Hezbollah fighters are assisting government forces on battlefields across Syria, particularly those near the Lebanese border, and hundreds are believed to have been killed.

The Hezbollah statement said Mustafa Badreddine’s death “will increase our determination… to continue the fight against these criminal gangs and defeat them”.

Born in 1961, Mustafa Amine Badreddine is believed to have been a senior figure in Hezbollah’s military wing. He was a cousin and brother-in-law of Imad Mughniyeh, who was the military wing’s chief until his assassination by car bomb in Damascus in 2008.

They are alleged to have worked together on the October 1983 bombing of the US Marine Corps barracks in Beirut that killed 241 people.

Mustafa Badreddine is reported to have sat on Hezbollah’s Shura Council and served as an adviser to the group’s overall leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Hezbollah was established in the wake of the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in the early 1980s, and has called for the “obliteration” of Israel.

Mustafa Badreddine was also charged with masterminding the assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri in Beirut in 2005.

An indictment from the ongoing Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague details Mustafa Badreddine’s role in bombings in Kuwait in 1983, that targeted the French and US embassies and other facilities, and killed six people. He was sentenced to death over the attacks, but later escaped from prison.

Top Hezbollah commander in Syria’s war Mustafa Amine Badreddine has been killed in Damascus.

Mustafa Amine Badreddine, 55, died in a large explosion near Damascus airport, the Lebanon-based militant group said in a statement on its al-Manar website.

He is charged with leading the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut in 2005.

Hezbollah supports Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and has sent thousands of fighters into Syria.Mustafa Amine Badreddine killedd

The US treasury, which imposed sanctions on Mustafa Amine Badreddine last July, said at the time he was “responsible for Hezbollah’s military operations in Syria since 2011, including the movement of Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon to Syria, in support of the Syrian regime”.

Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV had earlier said that Mustafa Amine Badreddine died in an Israeli airstrike. Israel has not commented on the claim.

Announcing Mustafa Amine Badreddine’s death, Hezbollah said in an initial statement: “He took part in most of the operations of the Islamic Resistance since 1982,” referring to the group’s military wing.

The second statement, on al-Manar’s website, said: “The investigation will work on determining the nature of the explosion and its causes and whether it was a result of an air, missile or artillery attack.

“We will announce further results of the investigations soon.”

Al-Manar said Mustafa Amine Badreddine would be buried in Beirut on May 13.

Born in 1961, Mustafa Amine Badreddine is believed to have been a senior figure in Hezbollah’s military wing.

He was a cousin and brother-in-law of Imad Mughniyeh, who was the military wing’s chief until his assassination by car bomb in Damascus in 2008.

According to one report, a Hezbollah member interrogated by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), described Mustafa Amine Badreddine as “more dangerous” than Imad Mughniyeh, who was “his teacher in terrorism”.

Mustafa Amine Badreddine and Imad Mughniyeh are alleged to have worked together on the October 1983 bombing of the US Marine Corps barracks in Beirut that killed 241 personnel.

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Demis Roussos, the Greek singer who is best known for his soaring voice, has died on January 25 at the age of 68.

Few people remember that the larger-than-life singer was held hostage for five days in 1985.

On 14 June, 1985, Demis Roussos boarded TWA Flight 847 from Athens to Rome – and found himself at the mercy of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Two hijackers, who had smuggled a pistol and grenades through airport security, held the passengers at gunpoint, demanding the release of 17 members of Hezbollah and the Iraqi Islamic Daawa Party.

The plane was diverted to Beirut, then Algiers, and 23-year-old US Navy Petty Officer Robert Dean Stethem was killed.

Demis Roussos spent five days – including his 39th birthday – in captivity, before being released in Beirut (another 40 or so passengers, mainly from the US, endured a further two weeks on the plane).Demis Roussos held hostage in 1985

Speaking at a press conference after his release, Demis Roussos said he had been “treated quite well”.

“They gave me a birthday cake and they gave me a guitar, to sing,” Demis Roussos said.

“They have been very polite and very nice with us.”

Over the years, some papers said Demis Roussos had serenaded the hijackers. Others claimed the singer had pledged allegiance to Hezbollah.

Demis Roussos, who rarely spoke about the incident, admitted he was riled by the exaggerations in an interview with Australia’s Daily Telegraph in 2006: “It is not every day that a pop superstar gets involved with terrorism as a victim, so the press takes advantage of that to say things they think are funny.

”I would like to see the journalist [who first reported the claim] in front of gunpoint like I was. Believe me, if he was there he would be so scared he wouldn’t care about writing such stupidities like that.”

The experience changed the singer’s life, and Demis Roussos spent years promoting peace through music.

“Musicians are like a preacher, a teacher, an actor,” Demis Roussos said.

“You are the mediator who can transfer the energy of beautiful music to the others.”

At least four people have been killed by a suspected bomb explosion in a Hezbollah stronghold in a Shia-dominated southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon.

Flames were seen pouring from the facade of a multi-storey building, with large plumes of smoke.

Local media quoted officials as saying the blast was caused by a suicide bomber.

There has been a spike in sectarian tension in Lebanon blamed on the conflict in neighboring Syria.

Hezbollah forces have been fighting in support of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, while Lebanese Sunni Muslims tend to back the Syrian opposition.

At least four people have been killed by a suspected bomb explosion in a Hezbollah stronghold in a Shia-dominated southern suburb of Beirut

At least four people have been killed by a suspected bomb explosion in a Hezbollah stronghold in a Shia-dominated southern suburb of Beirut

The blast occurred in Arid Street in the Haret Hreik district. Large crowds gathered at the scene as Hezbollah’s emergency services worked to extinguish the blaze.

Hezbollah sources quoted by the organization’s al-Manar TV said four people had been killed. Several more are reported to have been wounded.

Body parts thought to be those of the suicide bomber were scattered at the scene, Lebanon’s national news agency reported.

Caretaker PM Najib Mikati called a meeting of the government’s emergency response committee.

It is the latest of several recent explosions in Lebanon. Five people were killed and many others injured by a bomb blast on January 2 in the same Beirut district.

The trial of Lebanese PM Rafic Hariri’s murderers has begun at an unprecedented tribunal at The Hague.

Mustafa Badreddine, Salim Ayyash, Hussein Oneissi, and Assad Sabra – alleged associates of the Syria-backed militant Shia movement Hezbollah – have not been arrested and are being tried in absentia.

Rafic Hariri was killed by a massive car bomb in Beirut in 2005.

The killing polarized Lebanon and led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops. Hezbollah denies any involvement.

It instead says the assassination was part of an Israeli and US conspiracy.

Shortly before the trial was to start, a bomb blast was reported near a government building in the town of Hermel – a Hezbollah stronghold.

At least two people were killed and 15 wounded in the attack in the town, which is in the Bekaa Valley, near the northern border with Syria.

In his address at the start of the trial, judge David Re said it had been decided that all necessary steps had been taken to try to bring the accused to court.

He said that the court would proceed as if the defendants were present and that, although no pleas had been entered, they would be presumed to have pleaded not guilty and it would be the prosecution’s task to prove guilt beyond all reasonable doubt.

The trial of Lebanese PM Rafic Hariri’s murderers has begun at an unprecedented tribunal at The Hague

The trial of Lebanese PM Rafic Hariri’s murderers has begun at an unprecedented tribunal at The Hague

A summary of the charges was read and the prosecution has begun its opening statement.

Rafic Hariri’s son, Saad, and other family members are at the trial.

On February 14, 2005, the bomb attack that killed Rafic Hariri and 22 others and wounded 226 more was a seismic event in Lebanese history, fuelling the sectarian divisions between Sunni and Shia Muslims in the country.

Supporters of Rafic Hariri, one of Lebanon’s most influential Sunni leaders, blamed Syria for the attack.

There were massive demonstrations against Syrian troops who had been stationed in the country since 1976. They left a few months later.

The UN set up the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in 2007 to investigate the bombing.

It issued warrants in 2011 for Mustafa Badreddine, Salim Ayyash, Hussein Oneissi, and Assad Sabra.

They face counts ranging from conspiracy to commit a terrorist act to murder and attempted murder.

Mustafa Badreddine is alleged to have been a senior Hezbollah military commander.

There is a fifth suspect – Hassan Habib Merhi, 48, – whose case may be joined to this trial at a later date.

The trial will hear 500 witness statements and could last months and possibly years.

Our correspondent says the evidence against the four suspects appears to be largely based on analysis of mobile phone networks.

But Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrullah says it was Israel that tracked Rafic Hariri’s movements by satellite, penetrating the phone system to falsify records and masterminding the assassination to discredit and undermine its enemies.

Sunni-Shia tensions remain high in Lebanon – exacerbated by the Syrian civil war.

Shia-group Hezbollah has been fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

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Al-Qaeda’s chief in Lebanon, Majid al-Majid, has died in custody in a Beirut hospital, Lebanese army announces.

The Saudi, who led the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and was on Saudi Arabia’s most-wanted-terrorists list, was arrested in Lebanon recently.

An army general told Associated Press the militant died of kidney failure.

The group has carried out attacks across the Middle East and claimed a bomb attack on Iran’s Beirut embassy in November that killed 23 people.

The Iranian cultural attaché was among the dead.

A Lebanese army statement said Majid al-Majid died in a military hospital in Beirut on Saturday, as he was receiving medical treatment.

Security sources said he had gone into a coma suffering from kidney failure.

Majid al-Majid led the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and was on Saudi Arabia's most-wanted-terrorists list

Majid al-Majid led the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and was on Saudi Arabia’s most-wanted-terrorists list

He was believed to have required dialysis for the condition.

It was only on Friday that the Lebanese authorities said that DNA tests had confirmed his identity.

Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn earlier confirmed the commander was being held by army intelligence in Beirut and was “being interrogated in secret”. He refused to say when and how the arrest took place.

However, a Lebanese security source told the Reuters news agency that he had been captured with another Saudi militant and had been living in the southern city of Sidon.

Majid al-Majid had led the Brigades since 2012.

Based in both Lebanon and the Arabian Peninsula, the group is named after a Palestinian jihadist ideologue who recruited mujahideen for the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

The group has attracted hardline Islamist militants who fought in the Iraqi insurgency and has based itself in the Ein el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, near Sidon.

The US designated the group a terrorist organization in 2012, freezing its assets.

November’s Iranian embassy bombing was believed to be its first major attack.

Iran and the Hezbollah militant group are allied with the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Media reports said Majid al-Majid had pledged allegiance to the leader of the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

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A car bomb hit a southern suburb of the Lebanese capital Beirut killing at least 5 people and injuring other 20, media and officials say.

The suburb is a stronghold of the Shia militant group Hezbollah.

Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV station said the blast destroyed part of a facade of a building in a densely populated area of Haret Hreik district.

Beirut has been recently been hit by attacks linked to heightened Sunni-Shia tensions over the Syrian war.

Beirut has been recently been hit by attacks linked to heightened Sunni-Shia tensions over the Syrian war

Beirut has been recently been hit by attacks linked to heightened Sunni-Shia tensions over the Syrian war

Former minister Mohamad Chatah, a Sunni and a critic of Hezbollah, was killed by a car bomb last Friday. Six other people died and at least 50 were injured.

Former PM Saad Hariri, to whom Mohamad Chatah was an adviser, blamed Hezbollah for that attack but it has denied any involvement.

No-one has yet said they carried out the attack, but it came a day after Majid al-Majid, the head of a Sunni jihadist group which claimed a suicide bomb attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut in November, was reportedly arrested.

Al-Manar TV showed large crowds gathered around twisted and burnt-out vehicles in front of a building that had been badly damaged in Thursday’s blast.

Initial reports say the bomb was detonated in a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

The street is home to shops, restaurants and residential buildings. The TV said the explosion took place a few hundred metres from the nearest Hezbollah political offices.

Majid al-Majid, the Saudi “emir” of the al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades, had said that attacks would continue in Lebanon until Iranian and Hezbollah forces stopped fighting alongside government forces in Syria.

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Lebanon has reportedly arrested Majid al-Majid, the head of a jihadist group that claimed the suicide bomb attack on Iran’s embassy in November.

Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn told AFP that Majid al-Majid, the Saudi “emir” of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades, was being held by Lebanese army intelligence in Beirut.

Hezbollah’s al-Manar television also said Majid al-Majid was detained “recently”.

Majid al-Majid, head of al-Qaeda-affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades, was being held by Lebanese army intelligence in Beirut

Majid al-Majid, head of al-Qaeda-affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades, was being held by Lebanese army intelligence in Beirut

The embassy attack killed 23 people, including the Iranian cultural attaché.

A cleric close to the Abdullah Azzam Brigades warned attacks would continue in Lebanon until Hezbollah forces stopped fighting alongside government forces in Syria and its prisoners were released in Lebanon.

Wednesday’s reports did not say when Majid al-Majid was captured.

Al-Manar cited Lebanese security sources as saying that two attacks on army checkpoints outside the southern city of Sidon on December 15 had been attempts to free him.

A soldier and four gunmen were killed in the ensuing clashes in the suburb of Majdelyoun, for which there was no claim of responsibility.

Lebanon’s army is to receive a $3 billion grant from Saudi Arabia.

Lebanese President Michel Sleiman made the announcement in a televised address after the funeral of a senior Lebanese politician killed in a car bomb attack. He said it would help fight terrorism.

Mohamad Chatah, a Sunni Muslim, was a staunch critic of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanon’s Shia Hezbollah movement that backs him.

Saudi Arabia and Hezbollah have taken opposite sides in the Syrian conflict.

Mohamad Chatah was killed in a car bomb attack in Beirut

Mohamad Chatah was killed in a car bomb attack in Beirut

“The king of the brotherly Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is offering this generous and appreciated aid of $3 billion to the Lebanese army to strengthen its capabilities,” Michel Sleiman said in his address.

He said it was the largest assistance provided in Lebanon’s history and would be used to buy weapons from France.

French President Francois Hollande said his country would “meet” any demands for weapons from Lebanon during a visit on Sunday to Saudi Arabia aimed at boosting commercial ties with the kingdom.

“I am in touch with President Sleiman… If demands are made to us, we will meet them,” Francois Hollande said.

President Michel Sleiman said the Saudi aid would finally allow the Lebanese army to “confront terrorism” and put an end to the proliferation of arms.

Lebanon’s ex-Finance Minister Mohamad Chatah and four others have been killed in a huge explosion in central Beirut.

Mohamad Chatah was an adviser to the former PM Saad Hariri, a Sunni Muslim. A car was seen in flames near government offices and the parliament.

The Syrian conflict has increased sectarian tensions in Lebanon.

The Lebanese Shia militant movement Hezbollah has sent fighters to Syria to back the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Bashar al-Assad comes from the Alawite sect, a heterodox offshoot of Shia Islam.

Lebanon’s ex-Finance Minister Mohamad Chatah and four others have been killed in a huge explosion in central Beirut

Lebanon’s ex-Finance Minister Mohamad Chatah and four others have been killed in a huge explosion in central Beirut

Some of the Syrian rebel groups are affiliated with the Sunni Muslim al-Qaeda network.

Iran, which backs Hezbollah, saw its embassy in Beirut attacked last month.

The Beirut blast damaged several buildings near the Phoenicia Hotel and set several cars ablaze.

Dozens of people were reported injured.

Mohamad Chatah became finance minister in 2008. After Saad Hariri lost the premiership in early 2011 Mohamad Chatah served as his senior adviser.

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Hassan Lakkis, a senior commander of the Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah, has been killed near Beirut, the group says.

Hassan Lakkis was “assassinated” near his home in Hadath – 4.3 miles south-east of the Lebanese capital, Hezbollah TV channel Al-Manar said.

Hezbollah blamed Israel for his death but Israel denies the accusation.

Little is known publicly about Hassan Lakkis, but he was reputedly close to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

The news comes a day after Hassan Nasrallah said Saudi Arabia was behind last month’s bombings outside the Iranian embassy in Beirut.

Iran is a major backer of Hezbollah, which has sent fighters to Syria to back the government of Bashar al-Assad.

Hassan Lakkis was reputedly close to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah

Hassan Lakkis was reputedly close to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah

The conflict in Syria has increased sectarian tensions in its smaller neighbor.

A statement issued by Hezbollah on Wednesday said Hassan Lakkis was killed as he returned home from work around midnight.

The group said Israel had tried to kill him several times previously, but had failed.

Lebanese security officials said assailants lying in wait opened fire on Hassan Lakkis with an assault rifle while he was in his car, according to the Associated Press news agency.

He was attacked in the car park of the building where he lived and was taken to a nearby hospital but died early Wednesday, the unnamed officials were quoted as saying.

Israel denied any involvement in the death.

“These automatic accusations are an innate reflex with Hezbollah,” Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said.

“They don’t need evidence, they don’t need facts. They just blame anything on Israel.”

Hezbollah – or the Party of God – is a powerful political and military organization in Lebanon made up mainly of Shia Muslims.

The organization emerged with financial backing from Iran in the early 1980s and began a struggle to drive Israeli troops from Lebanon.

Hezbollah fought a destructive 34-day war with Israel following the capture of two Israeli soldiers in 2006.

The group said that one of Hassan Lakkis’s sons had been killed fighting Israel in the 2006 conflict.

Two explosions have hit the Iranian embassy in Beirut in quick succession, killing at least 22 people.

The Iranian cultural attaché in Lebanon, Ebrahim Ansari, was among the dead. Officials said the death toll could rise.

TV images showed burning cars, bodies on the street and damaged buildings.

Iran is a major backer of the Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah, which has sent fighters to Syria to back the government of Bashar al-Assad.

Reports said one of the blasts was caused by a suicide bomber, while the second was a car bomb.

This has not been officially confirmed.

Two explosions have hit the Iranian embassy in Beirut in quick succession, killing at least 22 people

Two explosions have hit the Iranian embassy in Beirut in quick succession, killing at least 22 people

Reuters quotes Lebanese officials as saying CCTV footage showed a man rushing towards the outer wall of the Iranian embassy before blowing himself up, causing the first blast.

The Iranian ambassador to Beirut confirmed Ebrahim Ansari’s death to Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV, but said it was not clear if he had been in the embassy itself or one of the residential buildings nearby.

Ebrahim Ansari had only taken up his post a month ago, he said.

The ambassador blamed Israel for the attack – an accusation Israel swiftly rejected.

Syria condemned the explosion.

The Syrian conflict has increased sectarian tensions in Lebanon.

South Beirut, including the area around the Iranian embassy, is considered a Hezbollah stronghold. It has been hit by several attacks in recent months.

Caretaker PM Najib Mikati called the attack “a cowardly terrorist act”, Lebanese state news agency NNA reported.

“The aim of the blast is to stir up the situation in Lebanon and use the Lebanese arena to convey messages,” he said.

Tehran and the Shia militant group are key backers of the Syrian government, which is currently trying to cut off one of the Syrian rebels’ last remaining supply routes across the Lebanese border.

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Two huge explosions killed at least 42 people and wounded more than 400 others in Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli, health officials say.

The explosions are thought to represent the deadliest attack in Lebanon since the end of the civil war in 1990.

As Friday prayers ended, a blast hit the al-Taqwa mosque, which is usually attended by prominent Sunni cleric Sheikh Salem Rafii. He was unharmed.

A second blast five minutes later hit the al-Salam mosque in the Mina area.

War in neighboring Syria has raised sectarian tensions between the city’s Sunni Muslim and Alawite communities.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the attacks and called for calm and restraint.

Sheikh Salem Rafii is one of the most prominent Sunni leaders in Lebanon and is believed to have been a possible target.

He is opposed to Lebanon’s militant Shia Hezbollah group and has previously urged young Lebanese men to join opposition fighters in Syria.

Two huge explosions killed at least 42 people and wounded more than 400 others in Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli

Two huge explosions killed at least 42 people and wounded more than 400 others in Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli

It is not clear whether he was at the al-Taqwa mosque at the time of the attack, although some reports say he was giving a sermon.

Ambulances rushed to the aftermath of the blasts and heavy black smoke covered the sky.

“It was as if there was an earthquake, the whole city seemed to be shaking,” a local resident told Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper.

Television pictures showed damaged cars on fire, with their windows smashed, and people running through the streets trying to carry wounded people to safety.

Bodies could be seen on the ground and windows were broken on surrounding apartment blocks.

The preacher at the al-Salam mosque – the site of the second explosion – is also an opponent of the Syrian government and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, Associated Press reports.

No group has taken responsibility for the latest attacks.

In a statement reported by Lebanon’s National News Agency, Hezbollah strongly condemned the blasts.

The group said the attacks aimed to “sow seeds of strife among the Lebanese and drag them into bickering under a sectarian guise”.

Outgoing Lebanese PM Najib Mikati and President Michel Suleiman have also condemned the attacks, calling on citizens to unite against violence.

A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “The secretary-general calls on all Lebanese to exercise restraint, to remain united, and to support their state institutions… in maintaining calm and order in Tripoli and throughout the country, and in preventing the recurrence of such destructive actions.”

Tripoli, a city of nearly 200,000 people and Lebanon’s second largest, is one of the country’s most volatile sectarian fault lines, with a small Alawite population living in the midst of a Sunni majority.

The Alawite community tends to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with Sunnis mostly backing the rebels fighting him.

The bombs come a week after a massive car bomb rocked a Shia district of Beirut, leaving 27 people dead. The area hit contained Hezbollah strongholds.

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Fighting has raged in Syrian town of Qusair near Lebanon border after government troops launched a major operation to seize the strategic rebel stronghold.

State media said the army “restored security and stability” to most of the town – a claim denied by activists.

Lebanese militants are said to be involved – Hezbollah siding with the army, Sunni gunmen with the rebels.

More than 50 people have reportedly been killed. The fighting has also spilled into Lebanon.

Several mortar rounds fired from Syria struck Lebanon’s north-eastern town of Hermel, Lebanon’s National News Agency said, but no casualties or major damage were reported.

It said that in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, at least five people were injured in clashes between supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebel backers.

In a separate development, the UK-based Oxfam aid agency warned that Jordan and Lebanon were in urgent need of help to support hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who had fled the fighting.

Oxfam said a combination of rising summer temperatures and poor sanitation posed increased health risks for the refugees. More than 100 cases of a condition known as “Aleppo boil” had been diagnosed in Lebanon in the past two weeks, caused by a parasite, it added.

Fighting has raged in Syrian town of Qusair near Lebanon border after government troops launched a major operation to seize the strategic rebel stronghold

Fighting has raged in Syrian town of Qusair near Lebanon border after government troops launched a major operation to seize the strategic rebel stronghold

Syrian troops on Sunday managed to secure most of Qusair and “eliminated large numbers of terrorists, most of them non-Syrians”, the state-run Sana news agency reported.

It quoted a military source as saying that dozens of rebels had surrendered and the army was now “pursuing the armed terrorist groups in some areas” of the town.

Qusair resident and opposition activist Hadi Abdullah said government troops were engaging in house-to-house battles on Sunday, according to the Associated Press.

“It’s the heaviest [shelling] since the beginning of the revolution,” he said, quoted by AP news agency.

He also denied the regime had made advances in the town.

UK-based activist group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that 52 people were killed in Qusair: 48 fighters and three civilians.

Unconfirmed reports in Lebanese media said that a number of Hezbollah fighters had been killed in a rebel ambush.

The town – close to the border with Lebanon and with a population of 30,000 – has great strategic value. Its control would give the government access from the capital to the coast.

For the rebels, control of Qusair means they can come and go from Lebanon.

In recent weeks the Syrian military has won back surrounding villages and countryside and has encircled Qusair in Homs province.

Earlier this month, Syrian forces reportedly dropped leaflets on the town, warning that it would come under attack if opposition forces failed to surrender.

The UN said last week that the death toll in Syria had reached at least 80,000 since the conflict began in March 2011.

Activists said the number could be as high as 120,000.

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Israel Air Force has shot down a small unmanned aircraft after it entered the south of the country, the military has said.

Troops are searching for remains of the aircraft in the north of the Negev desert. It is not clear where it came from.

Local media quoted officials as saying the aircraft flew in from the west, but not from the Gaza Strip.

It was intercepted at around 10:00 local time.

The Israeli Defence Force said it was examining the aircraft’s flight path and whether it was being used for reconnaissance or for a potential act of terrorism.

However, Israeli radio quoted a military spokesman as saying it was not carrying explosives.

Correspondents say several small drones have penetrated Israeli territory in the past, but from the north.

On at least three occasions unmanned aircraft operated by the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah were detected.

An Israeli navy ship was damaged by an explosive drone in July 2006.

Two others flew over part of northern Israel in 2004 and 2005 without being intercepted.

 

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Shia Muslim militant group Hezbollah, has called for fresh protests in Lebanon on Monday over film Innocence of Muslims.

The world needed to know Muslims “would not be silent in the face of this insult”, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said.

Protests at many US diplomatic missions have been continuing over the film, which was made in the US.

One person was reportedly killed in clashes between protesters and police in Pakistan on Sunday.

In a speech broadcast on Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV station, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah called for demonstrations on several days over the coming week.

The first is scheduled to take place on Monday afternoon in a southern suburb of Beirut which is a Hezbollah stronghold.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Shia Muslim militant group Hezbollah, has called for fresh protests in Lebanon on Monday over film Innocence of Muslims

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Shia Muslim militant group Hezbollah, has called for fresh protests in Lebanon on Monday over film Innocence of Muslims

Sheikh Nasrallah branded the video the most dangerous insult to Islam ever, worse, he said, than Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses and the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, which were published in a Danish newspaper in 2005.

He said he had waited for the Pope to complete his three-day official visit to Lebanon before speaking out on the matter.

“Those who should be held accountable, punished, prosecuted and boycotted are those directly responsible for this film and those who stand behind them and those who support and protect them, primarily the United States of America,” Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said.

He said that Arab and Islamic governments should press for an enforceable international law banning insults to Islam and other religions.

There have been protests over the film in Lebanon in recent days, but most have been reported from the northern city of Tripoli, which has a Sunni Muslim majority.

The obscure, poorly made film at the centre of the row, entitled Innocence of Muslims, depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a power-hungry and foolish man, and includes scenes of him having sex with his wife Khadija and other women.

The exact origins of the film are shrouded in mystery, although US authorities say they believe the film was made by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a convicted fraudster living in California.

On Monday, more than 1,000 people were reported to be taking part in a demonstration against the film in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Some protesters were armed and have opened fire, but there were no reports of casualties, a senior security official said.

Two police vehicles have been set on fire on the Jalalabad road, home to NATO and US military bases.

Sunday’s clashes in Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city, occurred when protesters attempted to break through a barricade to the US consulate.

Police used tear gas and fired warning shots into the air in response to stone-throwing protesters.

A spokesman for the group that organized the rally told the Associated Press news agency that a protester had been killed in the clashes. Several other people were injured.

The US embassy in Islamabad announced on its Twitter feed that “all American personnel are safe and accounted for” at the consulate and thanked Pakistani police for their efforts in protecting it.

In the Danish capital, Copenhagen, a few hundred people held a vocal demonstration outside the US embassy.

Protesters directed invective not just towards the controversial video, but also at US military involvement in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Crowds also gathered outside the US consulate in the Dutch capital, Amsterdam.

Anti-Islamic Dutch politician Geert Wilders, whose party lost many of its seats in last week’s elections, has posted a link to the video on his website and encouraged his followers to do the same.

Also on Sunday, the president of Libya’s interim assembly said some 50 people had been arrested in connection with last week’s deadly attack on the US consulate in Benghazi.

Mohamed Magarief told CBS News he had “no doubt” the attack was pre-planned, and that some of those who took part were from outside Libya.

US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other US consulate staff were killed in the attack.

However, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice told ABC America’s “current best assessment” was that “this began as a spontaneous, not a pre-meditated, response” to earlier protests over the film in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

The violence in Benghazi was followed by a string of attacks on US consulates, embassies and business interests across the Middle East and north Africa. British, Swiss, German and Dutch properties have also been targeted.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has called for fresh attacks against Western embassies, describing the recent unrest as “a great event”, and urging protesters to unite to “expel the embassies of America from the lands of the Muslims”.

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Bulgarian police have released a composite image of the suspected suicide bomber who killed five Israeli tourists and a local driver on a bus on 18 July.

The bomber, who blew up a bus in the Black Sea resort of Burgas, has not been identified yet.

Forensic experts created the image of a dark-haired man with pale skin. The bomber’s head was found at the scene.

Bulgarian police have released a composite image of the suspected suicide bomber in Burgas

Bulgarian police have released a composite image of the suspected suicide bomber in Burgas

Police suspect that he entered Bulgaria in June and had accomplices.

But Bulgaria has declined to back Israeli claims that Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah played a role.

As well as those killed, dozens of people were wounded in the blast.

Shortly after the bombing, Bulgarian authorities released CCTV images of the suspected bomber, but they appeared to contrast with some witness descriptions.

So far no match has been found in international databases for the fingerprints and DNA samples taken after the bombing.