Sun, Sep 18, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Bombs continue to rock Lebanon

MYSTERY BOMBER Another explosion, the 12th this year, caused substantial damage and led to more speculation on who is responsible

DPA , BEIRUT

A Lebanese woman reacts as she looks at the damage in her bedroom after a bomb exploded late Friday in a predominantly Christian neighborhood, in east Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday. The bomb caused heavy damage and killed at least one person, and wounded 23, police said, in the latest in a string of blasts in the Lebanese capital.

PHOTO: AP

At least one person was killed and 23 others wounded by a car bombing late Friday in a Christian residential area of the Lebanese capital.

Lebanese police at the scene said the bomb had been put inside a suitcase and placed under a car. They said that the device contained about 25kg of TNT and was similar to other bombs that have rocked East Beirut this year.

"We thought these explosions were over, and that we were safe and heading towards finding out the truth about who was planting them," George Tohmeh, a resident of Ashrafiyeh, said at the scene.

The explosion, which was heard several kilometers away, blew out the windows of buildings in the area and sparked numerous fires, which were visible from across the city.

The facade of a four-storey apartment building was completely destroyed, the balconies collapsed and many cars were burned out.

Residents of the building were evacuated by civil defense workers, who described it as unsafe.

The scene was described by one witness as "an apocalyptic sight," as fire engines and ambulances rushed to the scene under a huge cloud of black smoke.

A police officer at the scene said, "This is the work of the same people who were behind the 11 previous blasts," which have rocked the capital since March, wounded more than 29 people and killed at least five others.

Beirut has been jittery since March 19, when 11 people were wounded after a bomb exploded beneath a car in the Christian suburb of Jdedih.

Friday's explosion was the 12th blast to hit Christian areas since former prime minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated on Feb. 14 in a massive blast, which also killed 20 other people on the Beirut seafront.

The last explosion to target the capital exploded last month in another Christian neighborhood, Zalka, near a hotel where Arab tourists were staying.

Lebanese anti-Syrian MP Atef Majdalin said, "This is disturbing the peace in the country."

Parliament member Henry Pharoun, who lives near the targeted area, said, "Someone thinks that these explosions will shake the UN probe into Hariri's assassination. This is a message for the investigative team."

A UN investigative team, headed by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, has already ordered the arrests of four former top security chiefs in Lebanon in connection with Hariri's assassination.

Mehlis is also due to travel to Damascus next week to question high-ranking Syrian officials, who were in charge of security in Lebanon during their military occupation of the country.

Hariri's killing triggered massive opposition protests and heightened international pressure on Syria, which pulled its troops out of the country in April after a three-decade military presence.

Legislative elections were held in May and June, with the outcome meaning that for the first time anti-Syrian politicians now dominate the Lebanese parliament.

The Lebanese anti-Syrian opposition has blamed Hariri's slaying on Syria and its allies in Lebanon, despite denials by the authorities in Beirut and Damascus.

"Whoever killed Hariri is behind these explosions," Tohmeh said.

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