Suicide bomber targets army checkpoint in Beirut
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A suicide bomber blew up his car near an army checkpoint in a predominantly Shiite area of the Lebanese capital on Monday night, killing himself and wounding several people watching a World Cup match in a nearby cafe.
The bombing came just three days after a failed attempt to kill one of the top security officials in Lebanon, which has suffered a wave of sectarian violence linked to the civil war in neighbouring Syria.
Monday’s explosion, which happened shortly before midnight local time, killed the bomber and injured at least 19 people, Lebanon’s civil defence force said.
"Twelve people were injured in a suicide attack at an army checkpoint," the National Information Agency (ANI) reported.
"It was a car bomb and there is a strong possibility that it was a suicide attack," a security source told AFP.
A witness told Lebanese television that he saw a white Mercedes car travelling fast on the wrong side of the road before exploding, shattering nearby windows.
There was no immediate word on any victims of the blast, but ambulances could be seen transporting some of the wounded.
Television footage from the scene showed the burning wreckage of a car, surrounded by damaged vehicles.
Spilling sectarian violence
The blast occurred in a mainly Shiite Muslim district of southern Beirut inhabited by supporters of the Shiite group Amal, an ally of the militant movement Hezbollah.
Hezbollah has been fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria against the mainly Sunni Muslim rebels, who have also been supported by Lebanese Sunnis.
The conflict has spilled over into sectarian violence in Lebanon, with rocket attacks on Shiite towns in the Bekaa Valley, close to the border with Syria, and bombings of Shiite and Sunni targets in Lebanon’s main coastal cities.
Security forces have been on high alert since a suicide bomber killed one person and wounded 37 near the Syrian border on Friday in an attack that narrowly missed Major General Abbas Ibrahim, head of Lebanon’s General Security department.
Hezbollah ‘won’t let’ ISIS spread in Lebanon
The latest violence in Lebanon comes after Sunni insurgents including the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) swept through north and west Iraq and pushing towards the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.
"Terrorism seeks to undermine our unity," Hezbollah parliamentarian Ali Ammar told Al-Manar television.
"The Sunni extremists, after their defeat in Syria, are trying to open new fronts and what we are seeing in Iraq is not too different from what's happening in our country, but here the circumstances don't allow them to operate in the same fashion," he added. “Lebanon will not let ISIL spread here.”
One security source said before Monday night’s explosion that security forces were hunting for two potential suicide bombers in the Lebanese capital.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)
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