News / Middle East

Beirut Car Bomb Kills 8, Including Intel Chief

Soldiers inspect damage at scene of the explosion in the mostly Christian neighborhood of Achrafiyeh, Beirut, Lebanon, October 19, 2012. (Jeff Nuemann/VOA)
Soldiers inspect damage at scene of the explosion in the mostly Christian neighborhood of Achrafiyeh, Beirut, Lebanon, October 19, 2012. (Jeff Nuemann/VOA)
Jeff Neumann
A huge car bomb detonated on a residential street in Beirut at Friday rush hour, killing at least eight people including the nation's intelligence chief.
 
Scores were wounded in the heavy damage of the largely Christian district, many of whose residents support opponents of President Bashar al-Assad in neighboring Syria.
 
Pan-Arab and Lebanese media reported that Wissam al-Hassan, who was in charge of a top intelligence unit, was killed and likely targeted. He led an investigation into a recent bomb plot that resulted in the arrest of a pro-Syrian Lebanese politician. He also led the probe that implicated Syria and the Hezbollah faction in the killing of former prime minister Rafik Hariri.
 
No one took immediate responsibility for the blast and Syria condemned the bombing.

VOA's Susan Yackee interviews reporter Jeff Neumann from the scene in Beirut
VOA's Susan Yackee interviews reporter Jeff Neumanni
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
 

Christian neighborhood
 
The blast was set off in the Sassine Square area of Beirut’s Achrafiyeh neighborhood, close to a branch of the Syrian-owned Bank BEMO and a small office of Lebanon’s Christian Phalange party, a vocal opponent of the Assad regime in Syria.
 
"We saw a bright flash through the window and a loud noise,” said a young woman who works at Pharmacie Achrafiyeh, which is on the same street as the explosion. "I thought it was an earthquake. We didn’t think this was possible here."
 
Two blocks from the blast site is the former Beirut headquarters of the Phalange Party, which now mostly serves as a 24-hour vigil to the one-time commander of the Christian Lebanese Forces militia, Beshir Gemayel, who was assassinated there by a bomb planted by Syrian loyalists in 1982, during the Lebanese Civil War.
 
In an apartment about 15 meters from the blast site, a middle-aged woman sat distraught on a debris covered floor.
 
"I am just lucky I wasn't home," she said.
 
Couches and beds were overturned, and wooden shutters from two balconies were blown inside the apartment. Neighbors from nearby flats wandered the apartment building's darkened hallways in a daze. A thick layer of dust and debris covered the stairs.
 
Broken glass from car windows was strewn about on streets nearly 500 meters from the blast site.
 
But several blocks away, next to the upscale ABC Mall, street cafes were doing brisk business as people gathered to drink coffee and smoke as they would on any other evening.
 
A 24-year-old man, who would only give his name as Paul, said he heard a second explosion shortly after the car exploded, but guessed "it was probably a gas canister." 
 
Standing on the street where the blast happened, he said that the block was mostly inhabited by elderly people. Several elderly men and women were seen being removed from nearby apartment buildings on stretchers and taken to ambulances.
 
Call for blood donations
 
Several feet from the blast, a construction site for one of Beirut's new luxury residential towers was converted into a makeshift Red Cross field hospital. A young female Red Cross worker at the scene could only say, "We just need people to donate blood."

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says there is no justification for such violence and expressed Washington's sympathies for the victims and their families.
 
Friday's blast comes amid fears of spillover from the civil war in neighboring Syria. Several outbursts of violence have taken the lives of dozens of Lebanese this year, and attacks by Syrian army forces on Lebanese border towns are almost a daily occurrence.
 
Anti-Syrian politicians, including Mustapha Allouche of the opposition March 14th Coalition, accused Syria of orchestrating the bombing.
 
Allouche said that Syrian President Assad has threatened on several occasions to “set fire to the whole region,” if the conflict in his country continues.
 
Story continues below
  • A Sunni Muslim man hangs up a poster with an image of senior intelligence official Wissam al-Hassan, in the Tariq al-Jadideh district in Beirut, October 20, 2012.
  • Protesters march in the Achrafieh neighborhood a day after a car bomb attack that killed Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan and at least seven others in Beirut, Lebanon, October 20, 2012.
  • A protester carries a tire to add to burning tires used as a roadblock to protest the death of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan in a car bomb attack, in the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon, October 20, 2012.
  • Women walk through a road block of burning garbage containers laid by Sunni protesters angry at the killing of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan in Beirut, Lebanon, October 20, 2012.
  • Lebanese soldiers and security personnel walk in rubble after an explosion in central Beirut, October 19, 2012.
  • A Lebanese rescue worker, center, helps an wounded man at the scene of an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, October 19, 2012.
  • Firefighters extinguish fire at the scene of an explosion Beirut, Lebanon, October 19, 2012.
  • Lebanese rescue workers and civilians carry a wounded man from the scene of an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, October 19, 2012.
  • Lebanese Red Cross and civil defence personnel work at the site of an explosion in central Beirut, October 19, 2012.
  • Lebanese soldiers inspect damaged buildings at the scene of an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, October 19, 2012.
  • Firefighters try to extinguish a fire as a car burns at the scene of an explosion in Ashafriyeh, central Beirut, October 19, 2012.

Dory Chamoun, who heads Lebanon's National Liberal Party and whose home is located in Achrafiyeh, called the explosion a “political message.” He said that the conflict in Syria was causing collateral damage in Lebanon and would stop only when the Syrian crisis ends.
 
“There is no doubt that the longer the situation lasts in Syria, the more we're going to have some spillovers into Lebanon, but we just hope that things will go faster and normalize faster in Syria and things will be better for everyone concerned,” Chamoun said.
 
The attack Thursday also brought back memories of high-profile political assassinations in Lebanon, such as that of former Prime Minister Hariri, who was killed by a truck bomb attack on his convoy in Beirut in 2005.
 
His son, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, condemned the Friday bombing.
 
“The cowardly terrorist attack which targeted Achrafiyeh today is an attack against all of Lebanon and all the Lebanese people," he said. "It is a cowardly act against the country’s stability and security.”
 
Some people at the scene feared that the days of attacks like that were back.
 
"We never got out of the bad times," Paul said. "But it was just a matter of time."

Edward Yeranian contributed to this report from Cairo.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that members Lebanon’s Christian Phalange party support Syrian President Bashar al Assad. VOA regrets the error.

You May Like

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: musaw melake
October 20, 2012 7:13 AM
This seems to be a tit for tat attack, as the victim of today's incident has a hand in what took place inside Syria. If the man's agency is allowed to export it's terror over the border and target another country's intel-chief and other VIPs, the the opposite should be expected.

by: Ozlam from: Turkey
October 19, 2012 7:06 PM
now it begins... US/Israel/UK/Jordan nightmare begins... Hezbullah/Assad/Iran dream come true... where is Obama...??

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs