Beirut suicide bombing kills two

Beirut has been hit by a series of explosions in recent months

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A suicide bomber blew himself up in a passenger van in Beirut’s southern district of Choueifat on Monday, killing at least two people, the state news agency reported.

Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said the suicide bomber was trying to reach the Hezbollah stronghold of Dahya.

The bombing, which took place during the evening rush hour in the Choueifat district, was the latest of a series of attacks in Lebanon linked to the civil war in neighboring Syria.

The conflict has deeply divided Lebanon along sectarian lines and helped fuel a surge in violence that has rattled the already fragile country.

Lebanese TV stations broadcast video showing the charred, mangled wreckage of the mini-bus and pieces of flesh scattered on the pavement.

One security official cited one of the wounded as saying a man blew himself up after boarding the mini-bus and confirming that it was heading to a predominantly Shiite area in southern Beirut.

Choueifat is traditionally a Druse neighborhood, but is adjacent to a Shiite area.

A series of deadly bombings have targeted Shiite districts of Beirut’s southern suburbs in recent months.

The Hezbollah militant group has a strong presence in the districts, and the attacks are believed to be retaliation for the Shiite group’s armed intervention in Syria in support of President Bashar Assad.

Hezbollah has sent fighters to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a member of the Alawite offshoot of Shi’ite Islam, against the majority Sunni Muslim rebels.

Lebanese and Syrian Sunni militants supportive of the Syrian uprising have targeted Hezbollah areas, including with a bomb attack on Sunday in the northern Shi’ite town of Hermel.

Beirut’s southern suburbs have been hit by four car bombs since July. It appeared that Monday’s suicide bomber had detonated his explosives belt prematurely.

Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel told Reuters that the van’s driver - who survived the blast but was seriously injured - said the bomber was a young man who blew himself up when the driver confronted him because he thought he looked suspicious.

Lebanon is reeling from Syria’s civil war, which has killed over 100,000 people and turned increasingly sectarian, adding tensions to the smaller country’s own communal divisions.

Four car bombs have exploded in Hezbollah’s south Beirut strongholds since July. A pair of suicide bombings at the Iranian embassy killed at least 25 people, including an Iranian diplomat, in November.

“The situation in Lebanon has become connected with the situation in Syria, and the explosions will not end in Lebanon before the war in Syria ends,” Charbel said.

[With Reuters]

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