Two massive car bombs exploded today outside of the Taqwa and Al-Salam mosques in Tripoli, Lebanon, raising fears of spreading sectarian violence in the Middle East.
According to the New York Times: “Car bombs exploded with catastrophic force outside two Sunni mosques in this northern Lebanon city on Friday as many worshipers were leaving prayers, killing dozens of people and wounding hundreds. The bombings were a major escalation of sectarian violence in Lebanon, a country deeply unsettled by the conflict in neighboring Syria, and reinforced fears that the Middle East could be plunging into unbridled Sunni vs. Shiite warfare.”
The BBC reports that “At least 42 people have been killed and more than 400 wounded in two huge bomb attacks in Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli. The blasts, near mosques, are thought to be the deadliest attack in Lebanon since the end of the civil war in 1990.” Meanwhile, the Lebanese Red Cross claims that at least 500 people were injured in the two blasts.
The bombings may have been targeting opponents of Hezbollah. The New York Times reports that: “There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the blasts, but the Taqwa mosque was where Sheik Salem al-Rafei, an outspoken Sunni preacher, had inveighed against Hezbollah and had exhorted worshipers to support the Sunni insurgency trying to topple Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad.”
The BBC contextualizes these bombings, emphasizing that “war in neighbouring Syria has raised sectarian tensions between the city’s Sunni Muslim and Alawite communities. The blasts came a week after a car bomb in a Shia district of the capital Beirut killed 27 people.”
NIU graduate students in HIST 740 Religious Politics and Sectarian Violence will want to follow this developing story.