Explosions rock Beirut, scores dead

It's understood two men set off suicide vests in front of a shopping centre earlier this evening.

Emergency personnel gather at the site of a twin suicide bombing in Burj al-Barajneh, in the southern suburbs of the capital Beirut on 12 November, 2015. At least 37 people have been killed and more than 180 wounded after twin suicide bombings rocked the southern suburb of the capital. Picture: AFP.

BEIRUT - Dozens of people have been killed in two suspected suicide bombings in the southern suburbs of Beirut a stronghold of the Lebanese Hezbollah.

It's understood two men set off suicide vests in front of a shopping centre earlier this evening.

There are fears the death toll will rise, with a reported 180 people injured.

Isis has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The blasts occurred almost simultaneously and struck a Shi'ite community centre and a nearby bakery in the commercial and residential area of Borj al-Barajneh, security sources said.

A closely guarded Hezbollah-run hospital is also nearby.

The bombings were the first attacks for more than a year in a stronghold of the Iran-backed movement, which has sent members to Syria to fight alongside President Bashar al-Assad's forces in the country's civil war.

Several bomb blasts struck Lebanon in June last year, in a spill over of violence linked to Syria.

The war in Lebanon's larger neighbour, with which it shares a border of more than 300 km, has ignited sectarian strife in the multi-confessional country, leading to bombings and fighting between supporters of the opposing sides in Syria.

Hezbollah supports Assad; Sunni Islamists support rebels fighting against him and his Shi'ite backers.

Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk gave the latest death toll. He also said a third suicide bomber had been killed by one of the explosions before he could detonate his own bomb. His body was found nearby.

Medics rushed to treat the wounded after the explosions, which damaged shopfronts and left the street stained with blood and littered with broken glass.

It was a blow to Hezbollah's tight security measures in the area, which were strengthened following bombings last year. The army had also set up checkpoints around the southern suburb entrances.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Tammam Salam condemned the attacks as "unjustifiable", and called for unity against "plans to create strife" in the country, urging officials to overcome their differences.

The bombers struck as Lebanese lawmakers held a legislative session for the first time in over a year. An ongoing political crisis has left the country without a president for 17 months, with the government failing to take even basic decisions.

Religious leaders warned last year that in the absence of a head of state, sectarian strife was threatening a country that was gripped by its own civil war from 1975 to 1990.