The man rushed the gates of the Iranian embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. He was riding a motorcycle and as he approached the embassy guards could see explosives strapped to his chest. Before the guards could react the man reached the embassy’s outer wall and detonated the explosives. Minutes later a car parked nearby laden with roughly 110 pounds of explosives detonated, resulting in an explosion that devastated the surrounding area.
Lebanese officials say 23 have died from the attack and at least 146, including a senior Iranian official, were injured.
The Sunni militant group, Abdullah Azzam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attacks describing the attack as “a double martyrdom operation by two of the Sunni heroes of Lebanon”.
While the reason behind the attack is still unknown, the group has said that it would attack allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Shi’ite Iran openly supports the Syrian President and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, who are currently fighting together against Sunni rebels in the Syrian Civil War.
The Hezbollah presence in Syria has further inflamed sectarian tensions both in Syria and in Lebanon. Many Lebanese Sunnis support the Syrian rebels, while many from Lebanon’s Shi’ite population support Assad. Syrian rebel groups have threatened to take their war to Lebanon in response to Hezbollah’s involvement in the civil war.
Lebanon has been hit with three other terror attacks this year, and dozens of attacks in the neighboring country of Iraq can also be linked to sectarian tensions.
While the conflict between the Sunni and Shi’ite sects of Islam goes back centuries, the tension between the two groups still plays a big role in Middle Eastern politics, and has a strong influence on the stability of the region and the world.