A car packed with TNT exploded in the main square of this Muslim city Thursday, killing three people and wounding 34, police said. Another car bomb parked nearby was defused.
No one claimed responsibility for the blast or for a similar car-bombing Tuesday in the Christian port of Juniyah, 12 miles north of Beirut, which killed 13 people and wounded 107.
Sidon police said the driver and a passenger in the car that exploded were killed.
“We can’t tell whether they are suicide bombers or whether the bomb went off prematurely before they could get away,” said a police spokesman.
A 40-year-old pedestrian died of heart attack, the police spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The bombing in Sidon, south Lebanon’s provincial capital 25 miles south of Beirut, raised fears of a new wave of retaliatory explosions in Lebanon. Civil conflict between Christians and Muslims enters its 12th year this month.
The car that was blown apart was a beige Mercedes-Benz rigged with about 165 pounds of TNT that exploded at 9:35 a.m., police explosive experts said.
A gray Mercedes loaded with about 22 pounds of explosives was found parked 30 feet away from a six-foot-wide crater gouged by the blast.
The explosives in the second car, set to explode an hour after the first blast, were safely defused, said Shafik Sunbul, head of the security department of the Popular Liberation Army militia.
Police said they believed these explosives had been timed to detonate as rescue teams and police gathered at the site of the first bombing.
2 Suspects Seized
Two suspects, including the 23-year-old driver of the second car, were arrested and interrogated by the militia, police said. The militia would not disclose the identities of the men.
The Popular Liberation Army is an alliance of Sunni Muslim and leftist forces in Sidon.
At least 25 parked vehicles, including garbage trucks and oil tankers, were set ablaze. The city was engulfed with a cloud of black smoke.
Some vehicles were hurled 30 feet in the air by the blast, which shattered windows within 1,500 feet, witnesses said.
In Beirut, meanwhile, a statement signed by “the kidnaping group” said that a French teacher missing for two days was abducted by the group and is in good health. It said that conditions for the release of Michel Brian, 42, will be made public later.
A photocopy of Brian’s Lebanese identity card and a one-line handwritten statement signed “the kidnaping group” were handed to a reporter near a newsstand in West Beirut by a bearded man who said nothing before walking away.
In a separate claim, a hitherto unknown Muslim extremist group calling itself the “Islamic Saffin Organization” said that it kidnaped Brian, but it offered nothing to prove its claim beyond giving a vague description of the teacher. Eight other Frenchmen abducted in Lebanon, several of them more than a year ago, continue to be missing.
In Paris, French External Relations Minister Jean-Bernard Raimond said earlier that he had no information on Brian’s fate, adding that “we are doing everything necessary to find him.”