Explosion rocks Hezbollah’s Beirut stronghold

Al-Nusra Front in Lebanon claimed the car bomb attack which killed at least five people

Eman El-Shenawi
Eman El-Shenawi - Al Arabiya News
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A suicide car bomb attack that killed at least five people and wounded dozens in Hezbollah's southern Beirut bastion on Tuesday was claimed by the al-Nusra Front in Lebanon, believed to be a branch of a Syrian al-Qaeda-linked group.

"With the help of God almighty we have responded to the massacres carried out by the party of Iran (Hezbollah)... with a martyrdom operation in their backyard in the southern (Beirut) suburbs," the group said in a statement posted on their Twitter account.

Infographic: Mapping the Lebanon blast

Infographic: Mapping the Lebanon blast
Infographic: Mapping the Lebanon blast

Hezbollah's al-Manar channel said the blast occurred in the Haret Hriek area. State media confirmed the report. "Suicide bomber blows himself up in a car... in Haret Hreik," Lebanon's National News Agency said.

"Body parts apparently belonging to a suicide bomber were at the scene," it added.

The blast took place on a busy commercial street that was targeted by a deadly suicide car bombing in early January.

Al-Nusra Front is the official branch of al-Qaeda in Syria, and late last year a group calling itself the Al-Nusra Front in Lebanon emerged. Tensions from the war in neighboring Syria have increasingly spilled over into Lebanon.

“It’s hard to distinguish between al-Nusra Front in Syria and this group calling itself al-Nusra Front in Lebanon. We can’t draw any immediate conclusions that there are links between the two,” Matthew Henman, a senior analyst at London-based IHS Jane’s Terrorism & Insurgency Center told Al Arabiya News.

“But it’s more likely that al-Nusra Front in Lebanon is made up of Lebanese Sunni militants who have an affiliation to al-Nusra Front in Syria for the purpose of carrying out attacks in Lebanon against Hezbollah," Henman added.

Infographic: Blast hits Hezbollah bastion in Beirut

Infographic: Blast hits Hezbollah bastion in Beirut
Infographic: Blast hits Hezbollah bastion in Beirut

Hezbollah has sent fighters and advisers into Syria to help its ally President Bashar al-Assad, a member of the Shiite-derived Alawite minority, in his fight against mainly Sunni rebels.

Since the group's involvement in the war, Hezbollah-run areas in Lebanon have been targeted by a string of rocket and bomb attacks in recent months claimed by hardline Sunni militants.

“Syria has become the mother of all problems in the Middle East. The case now is that whoever is devising sectarian and political battles in Syria, is now doing this in Lebanon,” Ali Thbayty, a Lebanese political analyst who has written extensively on Hezbollah, told Al Arabiya News.

“These bomb attacks are a clear message of sectarian hate; we see it in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Due to internal or neighboring ongoing wars, these countries have now become arenas for Islamist militancy to take charge,” Thbayty added.

Security failure

“The attack undermines Hezbollah’s ability to protect its people in southern Lebanon, these districts are Shiite-dominated and controlled almost exclusively by Hezbollah," said Henman.

Haret Hreik was the target of a car bomb attack earlier this month that killed at least five people, according to Reuters news agency.

“Instead of pointing the security failure at the Lebanese forces, it’s more appropriate to point this at Hezbollah. There has been numerous occasions now where they have failed to identify car bombs or suicide bombers entering their area.

“With each attack, you’d expect the security measures by the group to increase to protect the civilian population and to prevent further erosion to their stature and standing in these areas that these attacks inevitably lead to," Henman added.

(With AFP and Reuters)

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