Five killed in apparent Beirut car bombing

If confirmed as a bombing, then it would be the latest in a wave of attacks to hit Lebanon in recent months as the civil war in Syria increasingly spills over into its smaller neighbor.

Khalil Hassan/Reuters
People attempt to extinguish a fire at the site of an explosion in Beirut's southern suburbs January 2, 2014. The powerful explosion in Shi'ite group Hezbollah's southern Beirut stronghold killed three people on Thursday and sent a column of smoke into the sky, a witness said.

An explosion rocked a stronghold of the Shiite Hezbollah group in the southern suburbs of the Lebanese capital, killing at least five people, setting cars ablaze and sending a column of black smoke above the Beirut skyline.

The nature of the explosion that hit during rush hour in the Haret Hreik neighborhood was not immediately clear, but a Lebanese security official said it appeared to be caused by a car bomb.

If confirmed as a bombing, then it would be the latest in a wave of attacks to hit Lebanon in recent months as the civil war in Syria increasingly spills over into its smaller neighbor. The attacks have targeted both Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods, further stoking sectarian tensions that are already running high because of the war next door.

Lebanon's Health Ministry said at least five people were killed and 20 wounded in the explosion, which left the mangled wreckage of cars in the street and blew out the windows of store fronts.

Images broadcast on Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV showed firefighters putting out the smoldering hulks of several cars that had been set ablaze. The footage showed at least one building that had part of its facade blown off, and several neighboring buildings were also damaged.

Al-Manar said the explosion occurred "a few hundred meters (yards) from the politburo of Hezbollah." It said the political office was not the target of the blast.

Hezbollah security agents as well as Lebanese troops were trying to cordon off the area to keep the angry crowds away from the blast site.

"Suddenly, the whole area went bright and we started running away," Ali Oleik, an accountant who works in a nearby office building, told The Associated Press. "I saw two bodies on the street, one of a woman and another of a man on a motorcycle who was totally deformed."

Authorities brought out bomb sniffing dogs, and at one point announced that there might be another bomb, setting the crowd scattering in panic from the area.

The explosion comes a week after a car bombing in downtown Beirut killed a prominent Sunni politician who had been critical of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his Hezbollah allies.

Hezbollah's once seemingly impenetrable bastion of support — Beirut's southern suburbs — also has been hit several times in recent months.

The Haret Hreik neighborhood where Thursday's explosion took place is close to the Beir al-Abed district where a powerful car bomb in August killed nearly 20 people.

The attacks raise the specter of a sharply divided Lebanon being pulled further into the Syrian conflict, which is being fought on increasingly sectarian lines pitting Sunnis against Shiites. Syria-based Sunni rebels and militant Islamist groups fighting to topple Assad have threatened to target Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon in retaliation for intervening on behalf of his regime in the conflict.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.