Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Nine killed, 20 wounded in Lebanon bus blasts

Nine killed, 20 wounded in Lebanon bus blasts
By Yara Bayoumy

Nine people were killed and about 20 wounded in two bomb blasts that wrecked minibuses near the Lebanese Christian mountain town of Bikfaya on Tuesday, security sources said. The attacks on the public buses occurred a day before the second anniversary of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. Security fears have been running high in Lebanon since clashes last month between supporters and opponents of the Western-backed government. An army spokesman said one explosion had ripped through a minibus carrying passengers near the town, causing casualties. He said it appeared from first reports that the second blast had hit another minibus in the same area. Television footage showed several destroyed vehicles, including a minibus with its roof torn off, on a mountain road. Pools of blood lay near one vehicle. Interior Minister Hassan al-Sabaa said early information was that the bombs had exploded inside the minibuses. The head of the Lebanese Red Cross said at least three dead and six wounded had been taken to a nearby hospital. "There could be more casualties," Georges Kettani told Reuters.

Bikfaya is the home town of former President Amin Gemayel, whose son Pierre was assassinated by gunmen in November. Pierre Gemayel was industry minister in Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's government, which has been locked for months in a power struggle with the Hezbollah-led opposition. The bombings were the first since Gemayel's killing, which was one of a string of actual or attempted political assassinations since Hariri's slaying on February 14, 2005. Many Lebanese accused Syria of masterminding Hariri's killing and the subsequent attacks. Damascus has denied any role. A U.N. inquiry has yet to complete its investigation.

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