Suicide bomber hits Beirut

February 04, 2014 - 6:38:18 am

Syrians gather with their belongings on the rebel controlled side of the Bustan Al Qasr checkpoint in the district of Aleppo, awaiting to cross to the government controlled side. 

BEIRUT: A suicide bomber blew himself up in a passenger van in a southern suburb of Lebanon’s capital Beirut yesterday as the country continued to struggle with the fallout from the civil war in neighbouring Syria.

At least two people were wounded in the blast, including the driver and a woman, but no one was killed apart from the bomber, the health minister said. A security source had earlier said one other person had been killed.

Lebanese television footage showed the gutted chassis of a vehicle with no roof. Smoke rose in the air and debris lay on a street. Body parts, including a head, lay on the road.

“There was glass everywhere. We saw a head. Then the legs landed near the station,” a man working at a petrol station near the site of the blast said. The explosion occurred in a van that was taking passengers along the highway in Choueifat, a district of south Beirut, to a suburban area where the Shi’ite Muslim political and militant movement Hezbollah has a heavy presence.

Hezbollah has sent fighters to support Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, a member of the Alawite offshoot of Shia, against the majority Sunni Muslim rebels.

Lebanese and Syrian Sunni militants supportive of the Syrian uprising have targeted Hezbollah areas, including with a bomb attack on Sunday in the northern Shia town of Hermel.

Beirut’s southern suburbs have been hit by four car bombs since July. It appeared that Monday’s suicide bomber had detonated his explosives belt prematurely. Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said that the van’s driver — who survived the blast but was seriously injured — said the bomber was a young man who blew himself up when the driver confronted him because he thought he looked suspicious.

Meanwhile, the deputy to the United Nations’ Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi will leave his post this week, the UN said.

The UN did not specify the reason for Nasser Al Kidwa’s prompt departure, but said that he had indicated “his willingness to serve the United Nations in other capacities.”

UN chief Ban Ki-moon thanked Kidwa for his efforts “in trying to end the bloodshed in Syria and move toward a Syrian-led transition,” according to a statement by Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky.

Agencies

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