Valdosta Daily Times

National, International News

August 16, 2013

Powerful car bomb kills 18 in south Beirut suburb

BEIRUT — A powerful car bomb tore through a bustling south Beirut neighborhood that is a stronghold of Hezbollah on Thursday, killing at least 18 and trapping dozens of others in an inferno of burning cars and buildings in the bloodiest attack yet on Lebanese civilians linked to Syria’s civil war.

The blast is the second in just over a month to hit one of the Shiite militant group’s bastions of support, and the deadliest in decades. It raises the specter of a sharply divided Lebanon being pulled further into the conflict next door, which is being fought on increasingly sectarian lines pitting Sunnis against Shiites.

Syria-based Sunni rebels and militant Islamist groups fighting to topple Syria’s President Bashar Assad have threatened to target Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon in retaliation for intervening on behalf of his regime in the conflict.

Thursday’s explosion ripped through a crowded, overwhelmingly Shiite area tightly controlled by Hezbollah, turning streets lined with vegetable markets, bakeries and shops into scenes of destruction.

Dozens of ambulances rushed to the site of the explosion and firefighters used cranes and ladders to try to evacuate terrified residents from burning buildings. Some fled to the rooftops of buildings and civil defense workers were still struggling to bring them down to safety several hours after the explosion.

The blast appeared to be an attempt to sow fear among the group’s civilian supporters and did not target any known Hezbollah facility or figure.

Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV and Red Cross official George Kattaneh said the death toll was at least 18 and more than 280 were wounded.

The army, in a statement, said the explosion was caused by a car bomb. It called on residents to cooperate with security forces trying to evacuate people trapped in their homes.

Syria’s conflict has spilled across the border into its neighbor on multiple occasions in the past two years. Fire from Syria has hit border villages, while clashes between Lebanese factions backing different sides have left scores dead.

But direct attacks against civilian targets were rare until Hezbollah stepped up its role in Syria. Since then, its support bases in southern Beirut have been targeted. Since May, rockets have been fired at suburbs controlled by the group on two occasions, wounding four people. On July 9, a car bomb exploded in the nearby Beir al-Abed district, wounding more than 50 people.

However Thursday’s explosion was much deadlier than those, and was the bloodiest single attack in south Beirut since a 1985 truck bomb assassination attempt targeting top Shiite cleric Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah in Beir al-Abed left 80 people dead.

It came despite rigorous security measure taken in the past few weeks by Hezbollah around its strongholds, setting up checkpoints, searching cars and sometimes using sniffer dogs to search for bombs. It also came a day before Hezbollah’s leader was scheduled to give a major speech marking the end of the month-long 2006 war with Israel.

The explosion occurred on a commercial and residential main street in the Rweiss district, about 100 meters (yards) away from the Sayyed al-Shuhada complex where Hezbollah usually holds rallies.

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, who has lived in hiding since his group’s 2006 month-long war with Israel, made a rare public appearance at the complex on Aug. 2, where he addressed hundreds of supporters. He was to speak again on Friday from a location in southern Lebanon, but his speeches by satellite are often transmitted to followers at the complex.

Panicked Hezbollah fighters fired in the air to clear the area and roughed up photographers, smashing and confiscating some of their cameras following the explosion.

Sunni-Shiite tensions have risen sharply in Lebanon, particularly since Hezbollah raised its profile by openly fighting alongside Assad’s forces. Lebanese Sunnis support the rebels fighting to topple Assad, a member of a Shiite offshoot sect.

The group’s fighters played a key role in a recent regime victory in the town of Qusair near the Lebanese border, and Syrian activists say they are now aiding a regime offensive in the besieged city of Homs.

A previously unheard-of group calling itself Aisha the Mother of Believers Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack in a video posted on YouTube, saying it is the second “message” they sent since last month’s blast in the area. The authenticity of the claim could not be independently verified.

“Our second message was strong and astounding,” said a masked man who read the statement, flanked by two other armed and masked men. He called on civilians to stay away from Hezbollah strongholds in the future, saying the militant group is “an agent for Iran and Israel.”

Hezbollah lawmaker Ali Ammar called the blast a “terrorist” attack and called for restraint among the group’s supporters. He suggested the group’s political rivals in Lebanon were responsible for creating an atmosphere that encourages such attacks.

Politicians within Lebanon’s Western-backed coalition have slammed the group for its involvement in Syria and called for its disarmament.

The U.N. Security Council strongly condemned the terrorist attack, calling it a “heinous act.” Council members stressed that terrorism “constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable.”

U.S. ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly also strongly condemned the bombing. In comments posted on the embassy’s Facebook page, Connelly called for all parties to exercise calm and restraint.

The British Foreign Office official in charge of Middle East policy, Alistair Burt, also condemned the attack.

“Terrorism and extremism have no place in Lebanon.  I call for the Lebanese state to investigate this urgently and bring the perpetrators to justice,” he said in a statement.

Outgoing Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati declared Friday a day of mourning for the victims of the attack.

 

1
Text Only
National, International News
  • Boston Marathon Bombi_Rich copy.jpg Questions linger year after Boston Marathon bombs

    A surveillance video shows a man prosecutors say is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev placing a bomb near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, just yards from where an 8-year-old boy was killed when it exploded.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP120401029 copy.jpg Today in History for Tuesday, April 15, 2014

    Today is Tuesday, April 15, the 105th day of 2014. There are 260 days left in the year.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Space Station_Rich copy.jpg NASA OKs space station visit despite dead computer

    NASA is pressing ahead with Monday’s planned launch of a supply ship despite a critical computer outage at the International Space Station, promising the situation is safe.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fatal Shooting Kansas_Rich copy.jpg 3 dead after suburban Kansas City shooting

    A man opened fire outside a Jewish community center on Sunday, killing two people before driving over to a retirement community a few blocks away and killing someone else, authorities said.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Seven Dead Babies Arr_Rich(1) copy.jpg Utah woman arrested after 7 dead babies found

    A Utah woman accused of killing several babies she gave birth to over 10 years was arrested Sunday after police discovered seven tiny bodies stuffed in separate cardboard boxes in the garage of her former home.
    Megan Huntsman, 39, who lived in the Pleasant Grove home until three years ago, had the infants between 1996 and 2006, investigators said.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP110714053482 copy.jpg Today in History for Monday, April 14, 2014

    Today is Monday, April 14, the 104th day of 2014. There are 261 days left in the year. The Jewish holiday Passover begins at sunset.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Range Showdow_Rich copy.jpg Feds release cows gathered in Nevada roundup

    Federal land managers confirmed Saturday that they released all 400 or so head of cattle rounded up on public land in southern Nevada from a rancher who has refused to recognize their authority.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Ukraine_Rich copy.jpg Uniformed men occupy Donetsk police HQ

    Men in the uniforms of Ukraine’s now-defunct riot police on Saturday occupied police headquarters in Donetsk, the eastern city that is one of the flashpoints of a wave of pro-Russia protests, hours after armed men seized local police headquarters and a local branch of the Security Service in a nearby city.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Australia Malaysia Pl_Rich copy.jpg Long hunt for missing jet looms as pings go silent

    After a week of optimism over four underwater signals believed to be coming from the missing Malaysian plane, the sea has gone quiet and Australia’s leader is warning that the massive search will likely be long.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP82016106626 copy.jpg Today in History for Sunday, April 13, 2014

    Today is Palm Sunday, April 13, the 103rd day of 2014. There are 262 days left in the year.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

What you think about school and workplace rules about Facebook friends?

There have to be rules.
No need for rules, just use common sense.
If people want to be friends, what is the big deal?
Nobody uses Facebook anymore.
     View Results