Thursday 22 February 2018

Five killed in attack by four suicide bombers in Lebanon

Lebanese policemen stand guard around a damaged ambulance in Qaa following a suicide bomb attack (AP)
Lebanese policemen stand guard around a damaged ambulance in Qaa following a suicide bomb attack (AP)

Five people were killed and 15 others were injured when a group of suicide bombers detonated their explosives in an eastern Lebanese village near the border with Syria.

The National News Agency said the blasts occurred in the predominantly Christian village of Qaa, and four suicide bombers were involved in the rare multiple attack.

An eyewitness said residents became suspicious of the men as they were passing through the village at around 4am local time. When civilian security men who guard the village called out to them, they threw a hand grenade before successively blowing themselves up among civilians.

A Lebanese military official said one suicide attacker blew himself up in front of a home, while three other attackers followed, detonating their suicide vests one after the other as people gathered in the area.

Four members of the military were among the injured.

An investigation is under way but n o group has yet said it was behind the attack.

Qaa's mayor Bashir Matar described how the fourth attacker was gunned down.

Mr Matar said it was unclear what had triggered the first explosion but once people started gathering, another explosion occurred, followed by a third.

"As we were treating some of the wounded, I saw the fourth suicide attacker coming toward me. I shouted at him," Mr Matar said. "We opened fire toward him and he blew up."

Lebanon has in recent years faced deadly spill-overs from the Syrian civil war next door, and Lebanese authorities have been on high alert, tightening security in recent days.

George Kitane, the head of paramedics at the Lebanese Red Cross, confirmed the death toll and said the 15 people injured were rushed to hospitals in nearby areas.

Though it was not immediately clear who or what the attackers planned to target, the Lebanese Christians of Qaa have taken up arms, setting up self-defence units to protect against potential attack by Muslim extremists from neighbouring Syria.

The explosions occurred about 150 metres from a Lebanese customs border point.

Lebanon's Al-Manar TV, which is owned by the militant group Hezbollah, said six people were killed and blamed the attack on the Islamic State group.

Hezbollah has been fighting in Syria alongside president Bashar Assad's forces in the Syrian civil war, which has stoked sectarian tensions in Lebanon. Previous attacks in Lebanon have been claimed by the IS group.

Islamic State and al-Qaida's branch in Syrian known as the Nusra Front have claimed responsibility for deadly attacks in Lebanon over the past three years that killed and wounded scores of people.

The area of Mashrea Qaa - a predominantly Sunni area that is near Qaa - is home to a large number of Syrian refugees who have fled the war in Syria.


Press Association

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