Meanwhile, al-Qaeda claimed Hezbollah, backed by Iran, was responsible for the attack. Lebanese authorities claimed the death toll from twin car bombs in the northern city of Tripoli has risen to 47 with an additional 300 still in the hospital – 65 of them in critical condition.
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US National Security Advisor Susan Rice wrote on Twitter that Washington "strongly condemns" the attacks. Rice also extended condolences for "the loss of innocent life."
Both blasts hit at the hour of weekly Muslim prayers, in a city where Sunni supporters of Syria's rebels engage in frequent, often deadly, clashes with Alawites, who back Bashar Assad's regime in Syria. Washington has frequently expressed disquiet that Syria's strife could spill over and ruin Lebanon's fragile peace.
State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf called on all sides in Lebanon to exercise calm and restraint. "We reaffirm our firm commitment to a stable, sovereign, and independent Lebanon and support the Lebanese government's efforts to restore stability and security in the country," she said.
Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi denounced the twin bombings, saying: “I strongly condemn the two bombings that targeted Al-Taqwa and Al-Salam mosques in Tripoli.”
He also called on all Lebanese to resort to “the language of rationality and brotherhood, in order to fend off the conspiracy to ignite strife” in Lebanon.
Iran's Foreign ministry spokesperson Abbas Araqchi was quoted on the official IRNA news agency as saying Saturday he "strongly condemned the terrorist attacks" which occurred outside two mosques during weekly Muslim prayers on Friday.
He denounced "takfiri (Sunni Muslim extremist) groups who seek to sow division to undermine Lebanese national unity and the peaceful coexistence of different communities" in the country.
The spokesperson said such people were playing into the hands of "the Zionists," in reference to Israel.
Iran is the main regional backer of the powerful Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah and President Bashar Assad's regime in war-torn Syria.
Outside the mosque (Photo: Reuters)
Al-Qaeda's North African branch blamed Lebanese Sh'ite Muslim militant group Hezbollah for the bombing, a US-based intelligence monitoring website reported on Saturday.
Although al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, is not operational in Lebanon, its statement shows a growing regional hatred against Hezbollah by radical Sunni Muslim groups and a wider, deepening sectarian divide in the Middle East.
AQIM said in tweets it knew "with certainty" that the Iranian-backed Hezbollah was responsible for the attack that killed more than 42 people in Tripoli. "That vile party... should know that it will meet retribution soon," AQIM said, according to the SITE monitoring service.
Hezbollah, which was once lauded by both Sunnis and Shiites for its battles against Israel, has lost support from many Sunnis since it joined Syrian President Bashar Assad's side in his 2 1/2-year-old fight against a majority Sunni uprising.
"We know with certainty that behind this deplorable act committed against are the hands of the vile, rafidah Hezbollah, which stands side by side with Bashar Assad in Syria," the AQIM tweets said, as quoted by SITE.
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also condemned the deadly double car bombing in Lebanon and appealed for restraint in the fractured country split over the war in neighboring Syria.
"The secretary-general strongly condemns the two bomb explosions, shortly after Friday prayers, outside two mosques in the north Lebanese city of Tripoli," a UN statement said.
He went on to call on all Lebanese to "exercise restraint, to remain united, and to support their state institutions, particularly the security forces, in maintaining calm and order in Tripoli and throughout the country, and in preventing the recurrence of such destructive actions."
"The Secretary-General hopes that those responsible for such cowardly acts of violence will be brought to justice as soon as possible."
The two powerful car bombs killed 47 people and wounded hundreds in the deadliest attack since the country's 1975-1990 civil war.
The attack has further stoked fears that Syria's civil war could boil over into Lebanon, where clashes have periodically erupted between supporters and opponents of the regime in Damascus.
Friday's blast was the second to hit Lebanon in just over a week. A car bomb targeted an overwhelmingly Shiite district south of Beirut controlled by the militant group Hezbollah on Aug. 15, killing 27 people.
AFP and the Associated Press contributed to this report
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