08/24/2013, 00.00
LEBANON
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A day of national mourning for Tripoli mosque attacks

by Paul Dakiki
In what is the worst terrorist incident of its kind since the end of Lebanon's civil war, the death toll from yesterday's blasts topped 45 today, with 900 wounded. A video from a CCTV camera inside one of the mosques shows the effect of the explosion during Friday prayers. Al Qaeda blames Hizbollah, as Iran accuses Sunni extremists. Parallels with the past are made. For Maronite Patriarch, the emphasis on the Sunni-Shia divide is destroying the Middle East.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - The Lebanese government has called for a day of national mourning following yesterday's deadly attack on two mosques in Tripoli that killed 45 people and wounded another 900. Although the city appears calm today, shots were fired in the early hours of the morning in the city's Bab al-Tabbaneh area.

The police are hard at work investigating the double attack, the deadliest since the end of the Lebanese war (1990).

The blasts occurred a week after a similar attack killed 27 people in Ruwais, a predominantly Shia area in southern Beirut.

Although prominent Sunni Muslim cleric Sheikh Salem Rafii could have been the intended target, he was unharmed. However, it is more likely the attacks were meant to kill as many people as possible, since they targeted mosques during Friday prayer.

The first bomb hit al-Salam Mosque in central Tripoli, as worshippers prayed. The second, a few minutes later, hit the outside of al-Taqwa Mosque, about two kilometres away, near the port.

Local LBCI news channel showed video footage from CCTV cameras inside one of the mosques. Moments after the blast, confused and panic-stricken worshippers are seen trying to flee in a cloud of smoke and dust.

The blasts left a dozen of victims burnt beyond recognition. Many buildings around the mosques were also damaged.

In response to the attack, the Lebanese army announced a "total war" against terrorism whose aim is "to provoke sectarian strife" in Lebanon. It also said that would track down anyone preparing car bombs to sow confessional divisions like in Ruwais.

Tripoli has long seen a sore point between the local Sunni majority, which supports the opponents of the Syrian regime, and Shias fighting with Hizbollah in Syria for the Assad government.

Hizbollah, which has been slammed for its involvement in the Syrian War, condemned the double bombing, saying that attacks in Ruwais and Tripoli are part of a plan "to drag Lebanon into chaos."

The UN Security Council also slammed the terrorist acts, stressing the importance for all Lebanese parties to refrain from any involvement in the Syrian crisis.

Iran's condemned the Tripoli attacks as well, blaming instead "takfiri (Sunni Muslim extremist) groups who seek to sow division to undermine Lebanese national unity and the peaceful coexistence of different communities," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said in Tehran.

Al-Qaeda groups (like Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb) blamed Hizbollah instead for the "heinous act", vowing to punish the Shia group.

The series of "confessional" attacks and the list of accusations associated with them have drawn parallels with Lebanon's civil war (1975-1990). Christians and Muslims traded accusations then, Sunnis and Shias do the same now.

For some, such a "strategy of tension" can only break up the Middle East and undermine ethnic and religious coexistence.

"There is a plan to destroy the Arab world for political and economic interests and boost inter-confessional conflict between Sunnis and Shiites," Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi told Vatican Radio recently.

"Some Western and Eastern powers are fomenting all of these conflicts. We are seeing the total destruction of what Christians managed to build in 1,400 years" in terms of peaceful cohabitation with Muslims, he added.

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