Suicide bomber strikes south of Lebanon’s capital
BEIRUT — A suicide bomber killed himself and wounded at least two others Monday when he detonated an explosives belt while traveling in a passenger van south of Beirut, the Lebanese capital, authorities said.
The official National News Agency said the bomber blew himself up in a white minivan near a gas station in the area of Choueifat, “inflicting a number of casualties.”
Among the injured were the driver of the van, who was transferred to a local hospital, and a female passenger, according to the news agency.
The attack, which took place in rush-hour traffic, was widely viewed as the latest bombing in Lebanon linked to the conflict in neighboring Syria.
The Syrian civil war has sharply divided Lebanon along sectarian lines and shaken the volatile nation’s already fragile, multi-sect governing structure. Lebanese officials have voiced grave worries about their country´s deteriorating security conditions amid a wave of car bombings in Beirut and the northern city of Tripoli since last summer.
Sunni Muslim as well as Shiite militants have been blamed for recent attacks.
On Monday, local television coverage showed scenes of chaos with security authorities and crowds milling around the charred remains of the minivan in a cordoned-off area and body parts scattered in the street.
The bombing comes two days after a suicide bomber struck a gas station in the northeastern Lebanese city of Hermel, killing three people and wounding more than 20.
Monday’s bombing marked the fifth deadly attack in Lebanon this year. Many of the bombings have targeted strongholds of the Islamic militant group Hezbollah, which has sent fighters to Syria to support that country’s government against Sunni-dominated rebels.
The target of Monday’s attack, however, was not immediately clear. The minivan was traveling on a highway in Choueifat that connects with several areas in the Lebanese capital, including the Shiite-dominated southern suburbs of Beirut. There was some speculation in the local press that the bomber may have been headed to one of those suburbs when the device detonated.
Al-Qaeda-linked Sunni groups have claimed responsibility for previous bombings, warning of further attacks unless Hezbollah pulls its fighters out of Syria. But there was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday’s attack.
Sandels is a special correspondent.
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