Death toll rises in Beirut car bombing

2012-10-19 16:22

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Beirut - A powerful car bomb ripped through a street in mainly Christian east Beirut on Friday, killing at least eight people and wounding scores, as tensions grow in Lebanon over the war in neighbouring Syria.

The National News Agency, citing civil defence figures, said the blast occurred at 13:00 only 200m from the headquarters of the Christian party, the Phalange, which is hostile to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

At least eight people were killed and 78 wounded, the agency added.

An AFP photographer saw two apartment buildings devastated by the bombing in a narrow street off Sassine Square in Ashrafieh. One building was still ablaze as Red Cross workers evacuated bloodied casualties.

Destruction

Balconies were torn off by the force of the blast, windows shattered and cars crushed by falling masonry.
"We heard a powerful explosion. The earth shook under our feet," said Roland, 19, among a large crowd of army, rescue workers and onlookers.

Nancy, aged 45, was in tears as she reflected on having nearly missed death.

"I was just coming home when I saw my house in flames. I would have been dead if I had stayed home."

Relatives of employees at Bemo bank, whose windows were broken, dashed to the area to look for their children.
"Where is Pierre?" one man cried, as a young woman searched for her mother in the rubble.

Reminder

A rescue worker, identifying himself as Rahmeh, said "this reminds me of attacks during the [1975-1990] civil war and after the war."

Soldiers and Interior Minister Marwan Sharbel was also at the scene of the first car bombing in Beirut since 25 January 2008, when Lebanon's top anti-terrorism investigator was slain along with three other people.

The most high-profile car bombing since Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war took place on 14 February 2005 when a massive blast killed former premier Rafiq Hariri and 22 other people as his motorcade drove along the waterfront.

At the time, Lebanon was occupied by Syrian troops, who had entered the country during the civil war, and its politics were dominated by Damascus.

Assassination

Hariri had originally been a supporter of the Syrian regime, but had taken a stand against it before he was murdered.

No one has ever been tried for the assassination, but a UN-backed tribunal has indicted four members of the Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah, which now dominates the Lebanese government and is allied to the Syrian president.
The four are still at large.

There are strong feelings in Lebanon toward both sides of the Syrian conflict, with some political factions supporting Assad and others opposing him.

Read more on:    hezbollah  |  lebanon
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