Islamic State group claims Beirut bombing: statement

BEIRUT Sat Jan 4, 2014 10:17am EST

Residents stand on their balcony as they look at the site of an explosion that occurred yesterday in Beirut's southern suburbs, January 3, 2014. REUTERS/Sharif Karim

Residents stand on their balcony as they look at the site of an explosion that occurred yesterday in Beirut's southern suburbs, January 3, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Sharif Karim

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - A statement in the name of the al Qaeda-linked militant group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant claimed responsibility on Saturday for a suicide bombing in the Hezbollah stronghold of southern Beirut that killed at least five people two days ago.

The purported ISIL claim, which also warned of further attacks, came in a statement responding to an offensive against the group by rival forces in northern Syria over the last two days in which dozens of people have been killed.

The statement said the fighting in Syria had been launched at a time when the Islamic State had "breached the borders and penetrated the security system of the Party of Satan in Lebanon" - an ironic reference to Hezbollah, whose name means Party of God in Arabic.

ISIL said it had "struck its stronghold in the so-called security zone in southern suburbs of Beirut on Thursday ... in the first small installment of a heavy account that awaits these shameless criminals".

If confirmed, it would be the first time that ISIL had claimed responsibility for an attack in Beirut, which has suffered a wave of bombings since last summer, mostly targeting Hezbollah and its allies.

Two suicide bombers struck the Iranian embassy in southern Beirut in November in an attack claimed by the al Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades, whose leader died in a Lebanese military hospital on Saturday.

The army said Thursday's attack had been carried out by a suicide bomber identified through DNA tests as Qutaiba Mohamad al-Satem. Lebanese media said Satem was a 19-year-old from Wadi Khaled, in north Lebanon close to the Syrian border.

(Reporting by Dominic Evans; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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