Three Dearborn residents, including a mother of four who had returned to her native Lebanon in a quest to bring her family to the U.S., were among at least 43 slain Thursday in twin terrorist bombings in Lebanon.
The blast killed married Dearborn couple Leila Taleb and Hussein Mostapha and seriously injured their 3-year-old son, Haider.
Taleb’s brother, Mehdi Taleb, said the child continuously asks about his parents in the hospital and still remembers the impact.
“He said they were bleeding and burning. ‘I want to go back to them. Where are they?’ ” Mehdi Taleb said.
Also killed was Leila Mazloum, who recently became a permanent resident of the U.S., and had moved to Dearborn in the past year. She returned to Lebanon about 10 days ago in an effort to bring her family to the United States.
Her sister said Mazloum, 49, was married with children. She said Leila was shopping when the bombings occurred in a Beirut suburb. A daughter was mildly injured.
Kassem Allie, executive administrator of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, said Friday the center learned of the deaths when the victims’ families contacted it to ask for a commemorative service.
Hundreds of people packed a hall at the center for the service. Men, women and children filled the rows of seats beneath gleaming chandeliers. A group of women seated at a table near the front podium bowed their heads and wiped away tears during chanting in Arabic.
Afterward, scores of supporters waited in line to pay their respects to the relatives.
Ayaah Taleb of Dearborn fought back tears as she remembered her aunt and uncle, who relatives said celebrated their wedding anniversary this week.
“At this moment, when I see all of these people coming up to me, it really hit me that I will not be seeing her ever again or her husband. It’s a lot to take in to know you lost people to these kind of people,” she said. “They were innocent people. ... I did lose two souls. I know these souls are now in heaven.”
Others decried the Beirut attacks.
“It has been difficult to view the footage of the heinous attack. It is truly shocking to see what certain individuals and groups are capable of,” Imad Hamad, executive director of the Dearborn-based American Human Rights Council, said in a statement.
“We condemn all terror attacks regardless of the identity of the attacker and the identity of the attacked. Even the loss of one innocent life is a loss too many.”
Hamad added many who attended the memorial Friday had ties to Lebanon, so “emotions are high,” he said. “It’s close to home.”
Burial for Mazloum is planned in Lebanon, but a service will also be held in Dearborn on Nov. 22.
The three victims were killed as explosions hit minutes apart during rush hour in Burj al-Barajneh, a Beirut suburb and stronghold of the militant Shiite Hezbollah group.
The Shiite group has been fighting in Syria along with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces. The area has been hit in the past, and Sunni militant groups have threatened to carry out more attacks there.
The attack was quickly claimed by the extremist Islamic State, which is fighting in neighboring Syria and Iraq but has not had a recognized affiliate in Lebanon, though the tiny Mediterranean country has seen deadly spillovers from the civil war next door.
Along with the 43 killed, the bombings also wounded 239 people, the Health Ministry announced.
Those killed in Thursday’s blasts included two staffers of the American University of Beirut, according to a memo circulated to the university community. The memo did not give the names of the staffers or other details.
It was not immediately clear how many attackers were involved.
According to a Lebanese security official, the first suicide attacker detonated his explosive vest outside a Shiite mosque, while the second blew himself up inside a nearby bakery.
An apparent third attacker was found dead, his legs blown off while he still wore an intact explosive belt, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. The official speculated that the third man may have been killed from the explosion set off by the second bomber, as he was reportedly close to that blast.
At the scene of the blasts, residents showed reporters what they said were metal pebbles that are usually put inside an explosive belt to inflict maximum casualties.
“They targeted civilians, worshippers, unarmed people, women and elderly, they only targeted innocent people,” Hezbollah official Bilal Farhat told The Associated Press, calling it a “satanic, terrorist attack.”
Hospitals in southern Beirut called on people to donate blood and appealed to residents not to gather at hospital gates so that ambulance and emergency staff could work unhindered.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam condemned the “cowardly criminal act,” urging the Lebanese to unite. U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag also denounced the “heinous attack,” stressing the need for those responsible to be brought to justice and saying that the world is standing by Lebanon.
The Islamic State posted its claim of responsibility on social media pages linked to the Sunni militant group. The claim could not be independently verified but it was similar to other IS claims.
IS said the attack was carried out by detonating an explosives-laden motorcycle close to a gathering of Shiites — a likely reference to the mosque — and that it was followed by a suicide bomber wearing an explosives vest. The statement made no mention of a third would-be bomber.
“Let the Shiite apostates know that we will not rest until we take revenge in the name of the Prophet (Muhammad),” the IS claim said.
Thursday’s attack shattered a period of relative calm in Lebanon.
It was the first such large-scale bombing since mid-2014, and comes amid much political upheaval in the country. It was also the deadliest attack in Lebanon since Aug. 23, 2013, when two car bombs exploded outside two Sunni mosques packed with worshippers in the northern city of Tripoli, killing 47 people and wounding hundreds.