BEIRUT, Lebanon — Two suicide bombers detonated explosions outside the Iranian Embassy in a mainly Shiite district of the Lebanese capital on Tuesday, killing 23 people, including the Iranian cultural attache, apparently in retaliation for the Lebanese group Hezbollah's support of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The bombings appeared to be another strike in an intensifying proxy battle over Syria's civil war that is rattling its smaller neighbor Lebanon. An al-Qaida-linked Sunni extremist group, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying more would follow unless the Iranian-backed Shiite Hezbollah withdraws fighters that have helped Assad's military score key victories over Syrian rebels.
The midmorning blasts hit the upscale neighborhood of Janah, a Hezbollah stronghold, leaving bodies and pools of blood on the glass-strewn street amid burning cars. More than 140 people were wounded, officials said.
A Lebanese security official said the first suicide attacker was on a motorcycle that carried 4.4 pounds of explosives. He blew himself up at the large black main gate of the Iranian mission, damaging the three-story facility, the official said.
Less than two minutes later, a second suicide attacker driving a car rigged with 110 pounds of explosives struck about 10 yards away, the official said. He spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
The bombing was one of the deadliest in a string of attacks that have targeted Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon in recent months in a campaign of retaliation by Sunni radicals over its backing of Assad in Syria's bloody conflict, now in its third year.
Senior Hezbollah official Mahmoud Komati told reporters at the scene that the attacks were a direct result of the "successive defeats suffered by (extremists) in Syria."
He described the blasts as a "message of blood and death" to Iran and Hezbollah for standing by Syria, vowing they would not alter their position.
Lebanese Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said the explosions killed 23 and wounded 146.