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Shiite cultural center targeted in Beirut

| Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, 5:51 p.m.

BEIRUT — Two suicide bombers blew up their cars near an Iranian cultural center in Beirut on Wednesday, killing at least four people and wounding scores, including children in an orphanage, in the latest attack targeting Shiite areas in Lebanon.

An al-Qaida-linked group claimed responsibility for the bombings, saying they were retaliation for Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian war alongside President Bashar Assad's forces. The Shiite militant organization is backed by Iran.

But the attack — like a dozen other similar bombings since July against Shiite areas of Lebanon — killed and wounded civilians. They included a dozen boys and girls living in a home for abandoned and orphaned children, said Dr. Hussam Bitar, a surgeon at Al-Zahraa hospital, where the youngsters were treated.

The blasts have embittered and angered residents, who say they are facing an unknown enemy seeking to kill them because of their faith.

“You can't imagine this from somebody you live with, somebody who could be your neighbor,” Bitar said.

Bitar's pants were stained with the blood of one of the orphaned girls who suffered shrapnel injuries. “She couldn't even remember her name. Did the bomber think of that orphanage?” he asked.

The blast set cars and trees ablaze and shattered the windows of nearby buildings. Mangled metal hung from a smashed building that once held a pharmacy, a clothing shop and a well-known sweet shop, Gondoline. Blood and tattered clothes lay on the ground amid the charred remains of six cars.

“I thought it was an earthquake,” said Sam Hasna, a Lebanese-Canadian citizen and owner of the Gondoline. “Everything was on fire. The whole store had crashed down. I saw shattered people, shattered cars, and I collapsed.”

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