An explosion tore through a crowded commercial street Thursday in a south Beirut neighborhood that is a bastion of support for the Shiite terrorist group Hizbullah, killing at least five people, setting cars ablaze and sending a column of black smoke above the Beirut skyline.
It was the latest in a wave of attacks to hit Lebanon in recent months as the civil war in Syria increasingly spills over into its smaller neighbor. The violence has targeted both Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods, further stoking sectarian tensions that are already running high as each community in Lebanon lines up with its brethren in Syria on opposing sides of the war.
The Lebanese army said 44 pounds of explosives were placed in a dark green SUV. It said authorities were investigating how the explosives were set off.
Lebanon’s official National News Agency said at least five people were killed and more than
50 wounded in the explosion, which left the mangled wreckage of cars in the street and blew out the windows of store fronts. The director of the Bahman Hospital, where dozens of the wounded were taken, said some of the injured were in critical condition.
Hizbullah’s Al-Manar media said the explosion occurred “a few hundred meters [yards] from the politburo of Hizbullah.” It said the political office was not the target of the attack. Hizbullah’s deputy chief Sheik Naim Kassim told al-Manar that the blast was aimed at “the whole of Lebanon.”
The explosion comes a week after a car bombing in downtown Beirut killed prominent Sunni politician Mohammed Chatah. The former finance minister and top aide to ex-Prime Minister Saad Hariri was critical of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his Hizbullah allies.
Hizbullah’s once seemingly impenetrable bastion of support — Beirut’s southern suburbs — also has been hit several times in recent months.