News Column

Beirut Blast Wounds at Least 40

July 9, 2013

At least 40 people were wounded Tuesday when a huge explosion rocked Beirut's southern suburbs, a hotbed of the Shiite Hezbollah movement, medical and security officials said.

"Most of the wounded were suffering from shattered glass wounds and burns," the head of the Lebanese Red Cross, George Kattaneh, told dpa.

The car bomb exploded in the heavily populated Bir al-Abed area, as some Shiites began observing the holy month of Ramadan.

The blast - in a parking lot serving a religious centre and a supermarket - created a 2-metre-deep crater and set dozens of cars ablaze.

"I was inside the supermarket with my daughter when the blast took place. Shelves inside the shop fell on our heads and the ground under our feet was shaking," Um Ali Hassan, who suffered minor head injuries, said.

Shopkeeper Ahmed Husseini was initially speechless as he inspected his nearby premises.

"Such acts will not change our loyalty to Hezbollah and its leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah," said Husseini after a few minutes.

The blast was not far from what Hezbollah describes as their "security square," where most of their officials reside.

Hezbollah sources said at least two suspects were arrested, though the official news agency denied it.

Hezbollah security carrying machineguns were present at the scene.

"This is a cowardly attack on civilians," Hezbollah lawmaker leader Ali Mokdad said. "The message has been received. It is the work of people who are trying to ignite strife in Lebanon."

Hezbollah followers threw stones at Interior Minister Marwan Charbel when he came to inspect the scene.

The movement's security whisked Charbel out of the area, injuring one man as they opened fire to disperse the crowd.

With stances on the conflict in neighbouring Syria a key dividing line in Lebanese politics, Hezbollah has accused Charbel of siding with the Western-backed alliance that supports Syrian rebels.

Lebanon's Sunni Muslims mainly back the rebels, while most of the Shiites support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Christians are split between rival political movements.

Hezbollah has been heavily engaged in the conflict, fighting alongside regime forces in Syria in recent months.

The movement played a prominent role in the recapture of the rebel-held town of al-Kussair in May and in the ongoing regime offensive in Homs' old city and Khalidiyeh district.

In May, two rockets were fired into a Hezbollah stronghold in Mar Mikhail, also in southern Beirut.

Lebanonese President Michel Suleiman and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned the blast.

Suleiman said in a statement: "The explosion should prompt officials to end their differences, return to dialogue."

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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