Blast kills several in Tripoli

An explosion in the port city of Tripoli in northern Lebanon on Wednesday killed at least 15 people, security sources said. The blast coincided with a historic visit to Syria by Lebanon's newly-elected president, Michel Sleiman.


TRIPOLI, Lebanon, Aug 13 (Reuters) - At least 15 people
including nine soldiers were killed in Lebanon on Wednesday,
according to security sources, in the deadliest attack on the
army since a battle with al Qaeda-inspired militants last year.

An army statement described the attack in the northern city
of Tripoli as a "terrorist bombing" -- a phrase used in the
past by the military when it suspects militant Islamist

It said the bomb had been placed in a bag at a bus stop
where soldiers usually gather.

Another 45 people were wounded. Four were in a critical
condition, medical sources said.

Red Cross workers ferried casualties to hospital. The
ground was spattered with blood and covered in shards of

"It seems that the bomb was detonated wirelessly by
remote," Lebanon's police chief Ashraf Reefi said. Security
sources had earlier put the death toll at 18.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the
attack in Lebanon's second-largest city, which has been the
scene of fighting between security forces and Islamist
militants and sectarian violence linked to political tension in

"The army and security forces will not yield to attempts to
terrorize them with attacks and crimes," said President Michel
Suleiman, who was army chief until elected president in May.

Suleiman led the army during 15 weeks of fighting last year
with the al Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam group, which was
based at a Palestinian refugee camp near Tripoli. The army lost
170 soldiers while putting down the insurrection.

"It could be a signal from the same jihadi groups that they
are still around," said Paul Salem, head of the Carnegie
Endowment's Middle East Centre in Beirut. "It's a pretty clear
signal to the army."

In New York, the U.N. Security Council condemned "in the
strongest terms" what it too called a terrorist attack, and
called in a statement for the perpetrators, organizers,
financiers and sponsors to be brought to justice.


The Tripoli attack was the latest jolt to stability in
Lebanon, which has suffered a wave of bombings and political
killings since the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister
Rafik al-Hariri.

The list of assassinated figures includes Francois al-Hajj,
a senior army officer blown up in December. The Tripoli attack
was the deadliest internal bombing since Hariri's

"The investigation has begun and there are many
interpretations, political interpretations," Information
Minister Tareq Mitri said, responding to media speculation that
the attack was designed to undermine a visit to Syria by

In Damascus on Wednesday, Suleiman and Syrian President
Bashar al-Assad agreed to establish diplomatic relations
between their countries at the ambassadorial level, a move the
United States and other Western powers have pressed for.

Syria strongly condemned Wednesday's attack, the Syrian
state news agency reported.

Damascus had seen the previous U.S.-backed Lebanese Cabinet
of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora as hostile and supported an
alliance of factions led by Hezbollah during 18 months of
political conflict with the governing coalition.

The conflict was defused by a Qatari-mediated deal in May.
Siniora, who is now prime minister of a new national unity
government, said the bombers wanted "the continuation of
tension in Lebanon."

The Doha agreement led to the election of Suleiman and the
formation of the new Cabinet, which won a vote of confidence in
parliament on Tuesday.

But the rival factions have yet to fully reconcile their
differences and at least 22 people have been killed in Tripoli
in recent months in sectarian fighting.

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