A large explosion rocked a stronghold of the Shiite militant Hezbollah group south of the Lebanese capital yesterday, setting several cars on fire, sending a thick plume of black smoke billowing into the sky and wounding at least 15 people, security officials said.
The powerful blast in a bustling commercial and residential neighborhood came as many Lebanese Shiites began observing the holy month of Ramadan, and is the worst explosion to hit the area in years — direct fallout of the civil war raging in neighboring Syria.
“This is a message, but we will not bow,” said Ziad Waked, a municipal official speaking to Hezbollah’s al-Manar television.
The explosion struck the area of Beir el-Abed, and was most likely caused by a car bomb, officials said on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
They said the blast was in the parking near the Islamic Coop, a supermarket usually packed with shoppers, and a gasoline station.
Al-Manar said 18 people were wounded.
The area is near what is known as Hezbollah’s “security square,” where many of the party’s officials live and have offices.