A suicide bomber in Lebanon blew himself up in his hotel room near Beirut's seafront Wednesday as authorities on high alert for attacks raided the premises, officials said.
The bomber, identified as a citizen of Saudi Arabia, was killed and 11 people were injured in the blast in the Duroy Hotel in the capital's seaside Raouche district, authorities said. Four security agents were among the injured, officials said. The bomber detonated his device to avoid arrest, authorities said.
Another would-be suicide bomber, apparently a confederate of the man who blew himself up, was arrested at the scene “with burns all over his body,” according to the official Lebanese national news agency.
A “booby trapped briefcase” was found near the hotel, reported the Lebanese state media, which said that authorities acting on intelligence had thwarted a broader bombing plot. Firefighters rushed to the hotel, situated in a district with many cafes and restaurants popular with tourists, and doused the blaze caused by the explosion.
The blast Wednesday was the third suicide bombing in or near the Lebanese capital in less than a week. The strikes have broken a lull of several months during which there were no such attacks in Lebanon.
The increase in suicide bombings has spurred concern among many Lebanese that the spiraling violence in Iraq and the territorial gains there by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS — an Al Qaeda breakaway group — is spurring a renewed campaign of attacks in Lebanon.
This small Middle Eastern nation has also been the site of spillover violence from the war in neighboring Syria.
The renewed violence is suspected to be the work of Al Qaeda-style Sunni Muslim groups seeking to strike back against Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim organization that is a dominant political and military organization in Lebanon. Hezbollah’s decision to send militiamen to Syria to fight on behalf of Syrian President Bashar Assad has enraged Sunni militants and others seeking to overthrow Assad’s government. ISIS and Hezbollah are also declared enemies.
In the last week, Lebanese authorities say they have disrupted several plots, including one involving a French citizen reportedly recruited by ISIS for a suicide car bomb operation, according to media and law enforcement reports. The French suspect was arrested last week at his Beirut hotel, authorities said.
ISIS has attracted hundreds of European followers who are fighting with the group in Syria, intelligence officials say. That has worried Western law enforcement authorities, since many ISIS militants have European passports and can travel freely to Europe and elsewhere without arousing suspicion.
The French suspect, who was arrested before he could carry out his mission, was told by his militant handlers to wait in his hotel room until a bomb-laden car was delivered and a target was specified, the Lebanese media reported. The suspect has not been identified.
Special correspondent Alexandra Sandels in Beirut and Nabih Bulos in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.
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