Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Roadside bomb explodes near UNIFIL peacekeepers in South Lebanon

Roadside bomb explodes near UNIFIL peacekeepers in South Lebanon
By Mohammed Zaatari
Daily Star staff

QASMIYEH: A small bomb exploded near a UN peacekeeping vehicle in South Lebanon Monday, causing no casualties, witnesses and UN officials said. Witnesses said the bomb detonated near the Qasmiyeh Bridge on the main coastal road north of Tyre, where UN military police maintain an observation post near a Lebanese Army checkpoint. The explosion led to limited damage to a UN four-wheel-drive vehicle. A Lebanese security source said the military police unit involved was from Tanzania, which has some 80 soldiers serving as part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). "We can confirm an explosion occurred in the area of the Qasmiyeh bridge involving one UNIFIL vehicle," said UNIFIL's spokeswoman Yasmina Bouziane, adding no casualties had been reported. UNIFIL began investigations at the scene. A Lebanese military spokesman also reported an explosion on the bridge. The army immediately cordoned off the area and diverted traffic from the bridge. Security officials in South Lebanon speaking on conditions of anonymity said two peacekeepers parked their jeep on the coastal road near the Qasmiyeh Bridge to monitor the speed at which UN vehicles travel in the South. The bomb exploded minutes after the two soldiers stepped out of the jeep. Monitoring the speed of UN vehicles began after four members of a Lebanese family, including two children, were killed in the South on July 3 when a UN water truck lost control and rammed into their car. The incident enraged locals, who demanded that United Nations troops refrain from driving at high speeds.

In response to Monday's explosion, Amal MP Ali Osseiran condemned such attacks, saying they targeted "the implementation of UN Resolution 1701 in addition to peacekeepers." "All the Lebanese condemned the criminal attacks against UNIFIL in June and those on Monday," he said in a statement issued on Monday. Officials from Hizbullah and the Amal Movement in the South also met Monday to discuss the latest attack on UNIFIL. "We strongly condemn the attack on the UNIFIL troops and we think that such an attack only serves the insecurity of the South," they said in a joint statement. UNIFIL has grown to 13,300 troops and naval personnel from 31 countries under a UN Security Council resolution that halted last summer's war with Israel. The UNIFIL peacekeepers operate alongside some 15,000 Lebanese Army soldiers deployed in the South following the 34-day war. A car bomb killed six members of UNIFIL's Spanish contingent in the South on June 24. No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but Madrid said it suspected Al-Qaeda-inspired Islamist militants.

On Monday, 1,100 Spanish soldiers replaced their outgoing comrades as part of a routine rotation performed periodically. Strict security measures were used during the rotation, which was held at theheadquarters of the Spanish contingent in Marjayoun. The bombing was the second attack on United Nations peacekeepers since the expansion of UNIFIL's mandate. The June attack was aimed primarily at damaging the stability of Lebanon, UNIFIL commander Major General Claudio Graziano said at the time. Al-Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri, in an audio message posted on the Internet last week, praised the June 24 attack as "a response against those invading Crusader forces who were occupying a beloved part of the land of Islam." - With agencies

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