Beirut bomb blast kills eight, scores injured
A huge car bomb that exploded in central Beirut during rush hour on Friday killed a top security official and seven others, wounded about 80 and heightened fears that Syria’s war is aggravating tensions in Lebanon.
Among the victims was Wissam al-Hassan, who was in charge of a top intelligence unit, Lebanon’s al-Jadeed television said. He had led an investigation that uncovered a recent bomb plot that led to the arrest of a pro-Syrian Lebanese politician.
Analysts said the bombing, which was reminiscent of grim scenes from Lebanon’s own 1975-1990 civil war, was linked to the heightened tension between Lebanese factions on opposite sides of the conflict in neighbouring Syria.
The explosion ripped through the street where the office of the anti-Damascus Christian Phalange Party is located near Sassine Square in Ashrafiyeh, a mostly Christian area.
Phalange leader Sami al-Gemayel, a staunch opponent of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and a member of parliament, condemned the attack.
“Let the state protect the citizens. We will not accept any procrastination in this matter, we cannot continue like that. We have been warning for a year. Enough,” said Gemayel, whose brother was assassinated in November 2006.
The war in Syria, which has killed 30,000 people in the past 19 months, has pitted mostly Sunni insurgents against Assad, who is from the Alawite sect linked to Shi’ite Islam.
Lebanon’s religious communities are divided between those supporting Assad and those backing the rebels trying to overthrow him.
The blast occurred during rush hour, when many parents were picking up children from school, and sent black smoke billowing into the sky.
Eight people were killed and at least 78 were wounded, the state news agency said, quoting civil defence officials.
Several cars were destroyed and the front of a multi-storey building was badly damaged, with tangled wires and metal railings crashing to the ground.