A car bomb explosion on a seaside boulevard near Syrian army headquarters killed at least seven people Saturday and wounded 12, most of them strollers who stopped at beachfront stands to sip coffee, police said.
The 8:20 a.m. blast on Ramlet al Bayda thoroughfare, the city's "Lovers' Lane," was the bloodiest attack yet against Syria's five-week-old occupation of West Beirut.
The explosion occurred 100 yards from the eight-story waterfront headquarters of Brig. Gen. Ghazi Kenaan, chief of Syrian army intelligence in Lebanon who commands the estimated 7,000-man Syrian occupation force. The blast was 70 yards from his home.
"Today's car bomb was obviously aimed at the Syrian troops," said Col. Aly Hammoud, head of the Syrian military observers in Lebanon.
The Sunni Muslim-controlled Voice of the Nation reported that a young man and a woman were seen leaving a parked BMW minutes before it exploded. Police estimate that the car was packed with 110 pounds of explosives. The blast hurled the car about 10 yards and left a 15-foot-wide hole in the road, police said. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, and none of the casualties appeared to be Syrians. Ambulances evacuated the casualties to nearby hospitals.
Helmeted Syrian soldiers of the elite special forces sealed off the site, set up checkpoints throughout West Beirut and frisked drivers and pedestrians.
The car bombing was the first since Syrian troops occupied Muslim West Beirut on Feb. 22. It was the sixth car bombing in Lebanon this year and came two days after Syrian soldiers killed three unidentified gunmen near a Beirut checkpoint.
Meanwhile, in the northern Lebanese village of Kfar Hazir, a Syrian officer was killed and five wounded when a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at their jeep by unidentified ambushers, police and relief sources there said. Syrian officials in Beirut, however, said the report is untrue.
About 30,000 Syrian troops have been stationed in central and northern Lebanon since 1976, early in the Lebanese civil war.