AMMAN, Jordan (MCT) – Lebanon’s capital was rocked again Thursday by what appeared to be a sectarian car bombing that tore through a stronghold of the Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah, killing at least four people. More than 70 were wounded.
The explosion struck a residential neighborhood in southern Beirut less than a week after a car bomb hit the city’s downtown commercial center, killing seven people. Among those killed in that bombing was Mohamad Chatah, a Sunni political figure who had been an ambassador to the United States and was a prominent critic of Hezbollah.
The blast Thursday was caused by about 44 pounds of explosives in a Jeep Grand Cherokee sport utility vehicle, in which investigators later found the remains of a body, state news media reported.
Hezbollah lawmaker Bilal Farhat told state media that a suicide bomber got out of the vehicle before blowing himself up.
Hezbollah’s Al Manar television showed scenes of the explosion’s aftermath, with images of milling crowds and scorched vehicles. Soldiers entered the neighborhood and cordoned off the area of the blast, a response that is becoming increasingly common as the neighboring civil war in Syria continues to spill over into Lebanon.
Hezbollah’s deputy leader, Sheik Naim Qassem, told Al Manar that the biggest danger lies in what he described as a campaign to incite sectarian sedition in Lebanon.
“They must know that Lebanon is not anyone’s farm,” he said.
Lebanon in recent months has seen a string of attacks linked to the war in Syria. Many have taken place in the southern suburbs, considered a Hezbollah stronghold.
In November, twin bombings outside the Iranian Embassy compound in Beirut killed 23 people and injured more than 150. Iran has continued to back Syrian President Bashar Assad as well as Hezbollah.
After the bombing Thursday, clashes erupted in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli between Sunni and Alawite residents, leaving one person dead and another wounded, state media reported. Fighting in the city has regularly flared up as proxy battles for the nearby Syrian conflict.
As in previous attacks, the bombing drew widespread condemnation from across Lebanon’s political and religious spectrum.
“The target in this explosion are the innocents and this type of terror strikes all of Lebanon,” another Hezbollah lawmaker, Hassan Fadl-Allah, told Al Manar.
(Special correspondent Bulos reported from Amman, Jordan, and staff writer Abdulrahim from Panama City, Fla. Staff writer Laura King in Cairo contributed to this report.)
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