December 11, 2013
Bombs kill 42 outside mosques in Lebanon's Tripoli
Bombs hit two mosques in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, killing at least 42 people and wounding hundreds, intensifying sectarian strife that has spilled over from the civil war in neighbouring Syria.
The apparently coordinated blasts - the biggest and deadliest in Tripoli since the end of Lebanon's own civil war - struck as locals were finishing Friday prayers in the largely Sunni Muslim city. Lebanese officials appealed for calm.
The explosions in Tripoli, 70 km (40 miles) from the capital Beirut, came a week after a huge car bomb killed at least 24 people in a part of Beirut controlled by the Shi'ite Muslim militant movement Hezbollah.
A recent resurgence of sectarian violence in Lebanon has been stoked by the conflagration in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad is fighting a largely Sunni-led rebellion. Both Hezbollah and radical Sunni groups in Lebanon have sent fighters over the border to support opposing sides in Syria.
Medical and security sources said the death toll from Friday's blasts in Tripoli had risen to 42 by late afternoon. Hundreds more were wounded, they said.
The first explosion hit the Taqwa mosque, frequented by hardline Sunni Islamists, and killed at least 14 people there, according to accounts earlier in the day.
Further deaths were reported from a second blast a few minutes later outside the al-Salam mosque, which the Interior Ministry said was hit by a car laden with 100 kg (220 pounds) of explosives.
A Reuters reporter at the scene said the blast left a huge crater and the floors of the mosque were covered in blood. A 50-metre (160-foot) stretch of the road was charred black and the twisted remains of cars littered the area.
"We were just bowing down to pray for the second time and the bomb went off. The air cleared, and I looked around me and saw bodies," said Samir Jadool, 39.
Lebanon's Red Cross said more than 500 people were wounded in the two explosions. Television footage showed people running through the streets, some of them carrying bloodied victims.
Near the Taqwa mosque blast site, angry men toting AK-47 assault rifles took to the streets and fired in the air while other men threw rocks at Lebanese soldiers nearby.
"Back off," said one militant, when journalists approached the scene. Soldiers peeked out at the mosque from a nearby base but did not approach it.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the bombings and called on all Lebanese people to "exercise restraint, to remain united, and to support their state institutions, particularly the security forces".