Thursday, May 24, 2007

Seven wounded as bomb strikes resort town of Aley

Seven wounded as bomb strikes resort town of Aley
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: A third bombing in four nights struck Lebanon on Wednesday as a blast wounded at least seven people in the mountain town of Aley, about 15 kilometers east of Beirut. According to the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp., the device went off just 100 meters from the local serail, which houses government offices, courts and the Internal Security Forces (ISF). The blast shattered windows and caused extensive damage to the facade of a stone building. The attack took place at about 9:15 p.m., when many cafes and restaurants in the area are still teeming with customers, but was on a side street next to retail shops and at least one bank that had closed several hours before.

A spokesperson for Aley's Iman Hospital told The Daily Star it had received seven patients who were wounded in the bombing, two of them - a man and a woman - described as being in critical condition. Investigating Magistrate Ahmed Oueidat arrived to carry out an initial inspection of the crime scene within an hour of the blast. Local political figures also visited, including Aley MP Akram Chehayyeb, a leading member of Walid Jumblatt's pro-government Democratic Gathering parliamentary bloc. Some members of the crowd chanted "God bless Walid Jumblatt" and heaped abuse on Syrian President Bashar Assad. The mood was angry, and unconfirmed reports indicated that Jumblatt supporters had captured two men they believed were suspects in the attack.

Law-enforcement agencies bodies have struggled to step up security in the capital and its environs after similar attacks in the capital neighborhoods of Achrafieh on Sunday and Verdun on Monday. The army, already taxed by a heavy deployment to the South since last summer's war with Israel and additional duties related to the opposition sit-in in Beirut since December, has also been heavily engaged at the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp since Sunday. This has left the more lightly armed ISF to occupy many army positions in the capital and other regions. Aley, a predominantly Druze community, is also a resort that has long been a popular destination for tourists, especially from the Gulf. - Maher Zeineddine, with agencies

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