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Explosions near Iranian embassy in Beirut

Several people have been reported killed in explosions near Iran’s embassy in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. One of the blasts blew out the main gate of the Iranian mission and damaged the building.

The blasts in the Janah neighborhood, in the southern part of Beirut, happened on Tuesday at mid-morning local time.

It is not yet clear what exactly caused the two explosions but car bombs were suspected. Lebanon's state-run National News Agency reported that both blasts were suicide bombings.

Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon, Ghazanfar Roknabadi, said his colleague, cultural attaché Sheikh Ibrahim Ansari, died from wounds he sustained in the explosions.

Lebanese Health Minister Ali Hassan Khali said late on Tuesday morning that 23 people had died in the blasts and that a further 146 were wounded.

Television footage from the scene showed people pouring water over a line of charred cars and thick black smoke rising into the air. The footage also showed heavy damage to the fronts of several buildings and debris covering the street.

Links to Syria conflict?

The area in which the blasts occured is a stronghold for the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, which is allied with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war in Syria.

Hezbollah areas in southern Beirut have come under attack this year in what Syrian rebels say is retaliation for their involvement in the war. There was no immediate claim of responsiblity for the apparent attacks, however.

Iran has been one of Assad's strongest supporters, supplying him with money and weapons since the crisis started in 2011.

se/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)