Suicide car bomb kills 3 at Lebanon army post
Published Saturday 22/02/2014 (updated) 22/02/2014 22:18
BAALBEK, Lebanon (AFP) -- A massive suicide car bomb targeting an army checkpoint in the eastern Lebanese town of Hermel near war-torn Syria killed a civilian and two soldiers on Saturday.
The bomb is the latest in a string of blasts, many of them suicide attacks, targeting areas where Lebanon's powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah is a dominant force.
A medical official who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity said two soldiers and a civilian were killed in the latest attack, and that 16 others, five of them soldiers, were wounded.
Hermel, in the Bekaa Valley, has seen multiple attacks in recent months related to the war raging in neighboring Syria.
Saturday's suicide car blast ripped through the checkpoint which lies at the main entrance of Hermel, and at which cars are routinely stopped and searched by army troops.
Immediately after the attack, military police imposed a security cordon on Hermel, as they searched for suspects and evidence, said the National News Agency (NNA).
The agency also said Lebanon's judicial authorities ordered the collection of evidence at the scene of the blast, as well as a DNA test on the remains of the attacker's body.
Areas associated with Hizbullah in eastern Lebanon and southern Beirut have been targeted by a wave of violent attacks in recent months, since the Shiite group acknowledged it sent fighters to support President Bashar al-Assad's troops in Syria's war.
Until Saturday, the attacks had all killed civilians.
Hezbollah television channel Al-Manar broadcast amateur footage showing a huge fire rise above the checkpoint. The sound of people screaming can be heard.
The blast comes just four days after three people died in a twin bomb attack targeting the cultural center of Hezbollah backer Iran.
And on February 1 a car bombing killed four people at a petrol station in Hermel, in an attack later claimed by Al-Nusra Front in Lebanon, a group named after Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate.
While Hezbollah has been the main focus of a string of attacks, many of them claimed by radical Sunni groups that oppose the Shiite movement's role in Syria, the army has also been a target.
Extremist Sunnis see the army as taking the side of Hezbollah and other Assad allies in Lebanon's violence, which has escalated in recent months as a result of Syria's conflict.
The attack comes less than a week on from the formation of a new government, after a 10-month deadlock and power vacuum.
'Act of terrorism'
Prime Minister Tammam Salam immediately condemned the attack as "an act of terrorism," according to the NNA.
Salam also called on the Lebanese to "rally around the army and the security forces, which have always been and will continue to be a fortress for the nation."
The 24-member government brings together Hezbollah and its allies with the Sunni-led bloc of former prime minister Saad Hariri, who back opposing sides in Syria's war.
As he unveiled the new government, Salam had pledged to "confront all types of terrorism."
Both sides of Lebanon's divide have regularly condemned such attacks.
Ma'an staff contributed to this report.