The head of Lebanon’s Red Cross says at least 29 people have been killed and more than 500 wounded in twin blasts that exploded outside mosques in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.
“There are at least 29 dead and 500 wounded, many of whom are in serious condition with burns and with head wounds,” said Georges Kettaneh, director of the Lebanese Red Cross, on Friday.
Lebanon’s health minister Ali Hassan Khalil told Lebanon’s Al-Jadeed TV station that the explosions had caused widespread destruction in the city.
The blasts went off near mosques in the predominantly Sunni city on Friday, when mosques were packed with worshippers for the Friday noon prayer.
The first bomb went off near the al-Taqwa Mosque in Abu Ali square. Worshippers were exiting the mosque after noon prayers as the bomb went off.
The second bomb went off outside the al-Salam Mosque in the Mina area of central Tripoli, causing smoke to rise above the area.
The imams of the two targeted mosques were reported to be unharmed and moved to a safe location, according to a local channel. Sheikh Salem al Rafei, a Sunni cleric and outspoken critic of the regime in neighbouring Syria, was leading the prayers at al-Taqwa Mosque.
While the Lebanese government’s official position on Syria is one of neutrality, the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah has openly declared its support for Syria’s President Bashar al Assad, and a number of Lebanese from the city of Tripoli have gone to Syria to fight with the armed opposition.
Ambulances rushed to the scenes and heavy black smoke covered the sky.Television footage showed crushed cars with their windows smashed. Some cars were burning. People ran through the streets carrying a woman whose face was covered by blood.
Just last week a powerful car bomb explosion ripped through a residential Shia neighbourhood in Dahiyeh, the southern suburbs of Beirut, which killed 27 people and left over 350 wounded.