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53 injured in car bomb in Shiite Beirut suburb

The blast comes amid spiralling tension in Lebanon over the civil war raging in neighbouring Syria.

Security forces stand at the scene of the bombing in Beirut, Lebanon.
Security forces stand at the scene of the bombing in Beirut, Lebanon.
Image: (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

A CAR BOMB has rocked Beirut’s southern suburbs, a stronghold of Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah movement, injuring at least 53 people, government and military sources said.

The blast comes amid spiralling tension in Lebanon over the civil war raging in neighbouring Syria, where Hezbollah fighters have joined President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in facing down a revolt by mainly Sunni rebels.

The attack took place in a zone monitored closely by Hezbollah.

It is the most serious incident in the movement’s Beirut stronghold since the start of the Syria war more than two years ago.

“A car bomb exploded near a commercial cooperative called the Islamic Cooperation Centre in Bir al-Abed,” which lies in the heart of Hezbollah’s Beirut stronghold, the military source said.

Lebanon’s Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said that 53 people were wounded, adding that 12 remained in hospital and two had undergone surgery.

The densely populated Bir al-Abed neighbourhood is home mainly to Shiite Muslims.

Several broadcasters, among them Hezbollah’s Al-Manar, showed firefighters battling several blazes while large clouds of black smoke billowed into the sky.

The scene of a bombing in the Beir el-Abed earlier today. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

“Everyone started panicking. Everyone was running left and right” after the blast, said Carole Mansour, who owns a shoe shop near the affected area.

Some Shiites started their fasting on Tuesday, although other Shiites and Sunnis will begin fasting either Wednesday or Thursday.

Lebanese politicians from across the spectrum quickly condemned the blast, including President Michel Sleiman.

Officially neutral in Syria’s conflict, Lebanon is deeply divided into pro- and anti-Assad camps. Hezbollah and its allies back Assad, who adheres to the Alawite offshoot of Shiite Islam, while the Sunni-led opposition supports rebels seeking his ouster.

In an indication of the extent of the political divisions, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel was attacked by Hezbollah supporters as he arrived at the scene.

Hezbollah officials then fired live rounds into the air to disperse the protesters, who were apparently opposed to the visit by Charbel, a member of Lebanon’s anti-Assad camp.

Tuesday’s blast is not the first time Hezbollah’s Beirut stronghold has come under attack in apparent retaliation for its role in the Syrian conflict.

In late May, two rockets fired from inside Lebanon landed in southern Beirut, wounding four people just hours after Hezbollah’s chief Hassan Nasrallah pledged to fight until victory for Syria’s regime.

The southern suburbs of Beirut also suffered massive damage during Hezbollah’s month-long war with Israel in 2006.

- AFP, 2013

Read: 16 soldiers dead as Lebanon clashes continue>
More: Hezbollah urges week of protests against anti-Islam film>

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