W. Beirut Bomb Kills 25, Fuels Fear of East-West Retaliation

Associated Press

A car laden with explosives and mortar shells blew up in a bustling market in Muslim West Beirut today, killing at least 25 people and wounding 170, police said.

The blast came one day after a white Mercedes-Benz sedan packed with a quarter-ton of TNT exploded in the city's Christian sector, killing 32 people, and fueled fears of renewed eye-for-an-eye attacks between Christians and Muslims in Beirut.

No one has claimed responsibility for either Monday's or today's attack.

Today's car bomb went off at 11 a.m. beneath a bridge jammed with vegetable carts, taxicabs and pedestrians in the Muslim district of Barbir. The car was parked 20 yards from a hospital.

Bodies Hurled Into Air

Bodies were hurled into the air as the gray Volkswagen Golf exploded, witnesses said.

Police said several mortar shells were attached to the explosive charge, estimated at 165 pounds, which multiplied the power of the blast.

Syrian and Lebanese troops as well as Shia Muslim Amal militiamen cordoned off the blast scene, firing submachine-gun volleys into the air to clear a path for ambulances and fire engines.

The explosion devastated 20 shops on the ground floor of a 13-story business center. More than 30 cars were wrecked and set ablaze, and glass shards from shattered windows littered the streets in a 200-yard radius.

Felt in Basement

Kamal and Zoheir Sayyed, who own a clothing shop at the scene, said they were in the basement of their store when the blast occurred.

"My father was tending to customers upstairs. Suddenly this deafening blast blew me and my brother off our chairs," Zoheir said. "Then I struggled up and raced up the stairs. My father was lying bleeding at the corner of the shop. We took him to hospital," said Zoheir, his white shirt stained by his father's blood.

Muslim-controlled hospitals as well as the sprawling medical center of the American University of Beirut issued appeals for urgent blood donations to cope with the influx of casualties.

City Crossings Closed

The Lebanese army command ordered all crossings between East and West Beirut closed following the explosion.

The car bombing came as Lebanon's Christian community mourned the victims of Monday's attack, which occurred in East Beirut's densely populated residential neighborhood of Ein Rummaneh.

The main residential and commercial districts of Beirut's Christian sector staged a one-day strike to protest the explosion that wrecked dozens of apartment buildings in Ein Rummaneh.

Schools, shops, banks, cafes and other businesses were closed in Ein Rummaneh, Furn el-Shubbak and Ashrafiyeh districts, the largest population centers in East Beirut.

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