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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

Ali Regained Title in Historic Fight 40 Years Ago

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license 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.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid