Wednesday 25 April 2018

Beirut blast hits World Cup viewers

A suicide bombing in Beirut has heightened fears that Lebanon is reverting to a cycle of violence (AP)
A suicide bombing in Beirut has heightened fears that Lebanon is reverting to a cycle of violence (AP)

A suicide bombing in a southern Beirut neighbourhood has killed a security officer and wounded 20 people.

The overnight attack - the second such bombing this week - heightened fears that Lebanon was reverting to a cycle of violence after a few months of respite.

The explosion occurred near a checkpoint and a cafe in the Shatila area of the Lebanese capital. The area is a stronghold of the Shiite militant Hezbollah group, which has been heavily involved in fighting alongside president Bashar Assad's army in neighbouring Syria.

The state-run news agency said security officer Abdul-Karim Hodroj died in the explosion.

It was not clear if the checkpoint, where Mr Hodroj was deployed, was the intended target of the attack. Among the wounded were people who had gathered at a nearby cafe to watch World Cup matches.

The explosion comes amid mounting regional tensions over events in Iraq, where al Qaida splinter group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has seized large chunks of territory in the country's north and west.

On Friday, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden car near a police checkpoint in eastern Lebanon, killing a policeman and wounding several other people.

The bombings, coupled with the detention in Beirut of alleged militant sleeping cells on Friday, sparked fears of renewed violence in a country which has been buffeted by Syria's conflict.

Syria's civil war has spilled into neighbouring Lebanon on multiple occasions and inflamed sectarian tensions. A series of car bombs have struck Shiite areas across Lebanon, killing dozens of people.

But Lebanon recently saw a lull in spillover attacks. Until last Friday, the last major explosion to hit Lebanon was on March 29, when a suicide bomber in an explosives-laden car targeted a Lebanese army checkpoint near the Syrian border, killing three people.

Hardline Sunni groups have claimed the attacks against Shiite areas, saying they are meant to punish the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah movement for its involved in the Syrian civil war, where predominantly Sunni rebels are fighting to topple Assad.

After Friday's bombing, troops began re-enforcing strict measures at entrances to Beirut's southern suburbs, setting up checkpoints and searching cars.

The Lebanese are deeply divided over the civil war in Syria, with Sunnis largely backing the insurgency and Shiites siding with Assad.

Press Association

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