Car bomb kills five in Beirut Hezbollah hub

January 03, 2014 - 5:59:06 am

People try to put out a fire at the site of an explosion in Beirut’s southern suburbs yesterday. 

BEIRUT: A car bomb killed five people in south Beirut yesterday, the fourth attack to hit the Hezbollah bastion since the Lebanese Shia group intervened in Syria last year, officials said.

The bombing came just weeks after a twin suicide bombing killed 25 people at the Iranian embassy in the same area and marked a new breach of the tight security in Hezbollah’s stronghold in the capital’s southern suburbs.

Hezbollah’s public confirmation last April that its militants had intervened in the Syrian civil war alongside President Bashar 

Al Assad’s forces outraged Lebanese Sunnis, most of whom sympathise with the rebels, and has made it a target for Sunni hardliners.

At least 20 people were wounded in the blast which ripped through the densely populated Haret Hreik area, a health ministry source told AFP, citing a preliminary toll.

An AFP photographer in Haret Hreik saw flames and smoke rising from burning vehicles and at least three buildings damaged by the blast.

Hezbollah’s Al Manar television aired footage of bystanders scrambling to douse burning vehicles in a car park beneath a building whose facade had been burned out. “The terrorist explosion targeted a densely populated residential area, just 150 to 200 metres away from Hezbollah’s political bureau,” the television channel reported, although it added that the building was not thought to have been the target.

The district is a symbolic one for Hezbollah, which once based many of its leadership institutions in the area. Al Manar television’s studios were once just 200 metres away.

Much of the neighbourhood was reduced to rubble during the massive Israeli air bombing that accompanied its 2006 war with Hezbollah, but it has since been rebuilt.

The blast hit the busy 

Al Arid Street commercial district. Panicked residents scurried around the streets as Al Manar broadcast warnings to leave the area for fear of further bombs.

The official National News Agency reported that the explosion was caused by an explosives-packed four-wheel-drive vehicle.

The US embassy tweeted: “We condemn today’s terrorist bombing in #Dahieh #Beirut. Our condolences to the victims and their families.”

British ambassador Tom Fletcher tweeted: “Condemn unequivocally today’s callous attack in Beirut. Lebanese civilians again victims. Thoughts with their families and emergency teams.”

Yesterday’s is the fourth bomb attack in south Beirut since Hezbollah announced it was fighting alongside Assad’s troops in Syria.

It came on the heels of a twin suicide bombing which hit the Iranian embassy in south Beirut on November 19, killing 25 people.

In the summer, the southern suburbs suffered two bomb attacks. One, on August 15, killed 27 people. A blast earlier in August had caused no fatalities but wounded some 50 people.

Yesterday’s blast came just a day after Defence Minister Fayez Ghosn revealed that Lebanese troops had arrested the leader of the Al Qaeda-linked group which claimed the Iranian embassy attack.

Saudi national Majid Al Majid, “emir” of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, was being interrogated at a secret location, Ghosn said, without specifying when he was arrested. 

Riyadh welcomed Majid’s arrest, Saudi-owned daily Al-Hayat reported yesterday.

The group was formed in 2009 and is believed to have branches in both the Arabian Peninsula and Lebanon.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 262 Hezbollah fighters have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the conflict in March 2011.

A Hezbollah commander, who had been missing for months in Syria, was buried in Lebanon on Wednesday after his body was repatriated following his torture and killing by rebels, relatives 

told AFP.

Hussein Salah Habib, 30, was captured by opposition fighters during the fight for Qusayr, a strategic town near the Lebanese border that fell to the regime on June 5.

He was buried in Baalbek, in the Bekaa valley, a region of eastern Lebanon that is a also bastion of Hezbollah. AFP

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