The death toll has risen to 25 people and more than 335 were wounded when a car bomb exploded on Thursday in the stronghold of the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group in the southern Beirut district, reported Reuters on Friday.
Al Arabiya correspondent said the death toll is likely to rise as rescue teams continue to uncover more bodies.
Buildings were damaged and many cars in the area were destroyed. The blast sent a column of black smoke over the densely populated area in the south of the Lebanese capital, Reuters reported.
The blast took place in the Rweiss district, a heavily Shiite district that is one of Hezbollah’s bastions of support.
A Sunni Islamist group calling itself the Brigades of Aisha claimed responsibility for the explosion, according to Reuters.
“This is the second time that we decide the place of the battle and its timing...And you will see more, God willing,” said a masked man, flanked by two others brandishing rifles, in a video statement addressed to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
Last month, a car bomb exploded in another south Beirut suburb, wounding more than 50 people.
The violence raises the specter of Lebanon being pulled into the increasingly sectarian civil war raging next door in Syria.
The explosion came a month after a huge car bomb wounded 53people in the same district, a stronghold of Hezbollah which has been fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria’s civil war, according to Reuters.
Several minutes after Thursday’s blast, live television footage showed fires still burning in the street where the explosion took place. The facades of neighboring residential buildings were also badly damaged, Reuters reported.
Al-Mayadeen television said some people were still trapped inside buildings at the scene, close to the Sayyed al-Shuhadaa (Martyrs) complex, where Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah often addresses his followers.
Sectarian tensions have been high in Lebanon following the intervention of Shi’ite Muslim Hezbollah in support of Assad against a two-year revolt led by Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority. Hezbollah also fought a month-long war with Israel in 2006.
(With Reuters and AP)