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August 16, 2013

Death Toll Rises From Beirut Car Bombing

by VOA News

Lebanese officials say the death toll from Thursday's car bombing in a Beirut suburb has risen to 22, as investigators continue to examine the site of the blast.

An anti-Hezbollah Islamist group calling itself the Brigades of Aisha has claimed responsibility for the blast. It took place in a suburb known as Rweiss, a stronghold of Lebanon's Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah.

More than 200 other people were wounded in Thursday's bombing. Television footage showed chaotic scenes of walking wounded, shattered buildings and twisted, burning cars, while Beirut television reported gunfire near the blast scene.  Firefighters used ladders to help residents escape their homes.  There have been no reports of arrests.

This attack is the second in the same area since Hezbollah fighters joined forces earlier this year with neighboring Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to battle Syria's Sunni-led rebels.  A nearby bombing last month wounded more than 50 people.

A short while after Thursday's blast, an online video surfaced showing three masked men in front of a white flag inscribed with the Islamic profession of faith, Shahada.  One of the trio is heard describing the blast as a second message to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah.

Lebanese leaders on Thursday condemned the latest attack, and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati declared Friday a day of national mourning.

The bombing follows Syrian opposition threats to target Hezbollah strongholds in southern Beirut and the Bekaa Valley towns of Hermel and Baalbek.  Both towns near the Syrian border have recently been hit by cross-border rocket fire. 

The two-year Syrian civil war has devastated the country and killed more than 100,000 people.

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