News & Current Affairs

September 29, 2008

Deadly blast rocks Lebanese city

Filed under: Latest, Politics News — Tags: , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 4:05 pm

Deadly blast rocks Lebanese city

At least five people have been killed in a suspected car bomb attack on a military bus carrying soldiers in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.

Witnesses said the blast happened on the outskirts of the city during morning rush hour. Some 30 people are believed to be wounded.

Several soldiers as well as civilians were killed in a similar blast on a bus in the city last month.

Lebanon’s leaders said the attacks were an attempt to destabilise the country.

Efforts have been under way recently to try and reconcile Lebanon’s rival factions after a wave of violence in May pushed the country close to civil war.

Pro-government Sunni fighters and pro-Syrian gunmen, whose fighting has centred on Tripoli, agreed to a peace deal earlier this month.

Threatened deal

Lebanese officials said the blast came after a car parked by a busy roadside near the southern entrance to the city was detonated by remote control.

The explosives were believed to have been mixed with nuts and bolts, and shattered nearby windows and damaged other cars.

Lebanon

The blast appeared to target a military bus that was passing through morning traffic in the Bahsas neighborhood at the time.

Security sources said four of the dead and at least 21 of the wounded were soldiers, the rest were civilians.

TV pictures showed soldiers sealing off the area and preventing people from approaching the scene of the blast.

Government officials said an investigation into the attack was under way, but no one had yet claimed responsibility.

At least 14 people were killed in a similar attack on a bus in the city in August. Several of the victims were off-duty soldiers.

‘Terrorist act’

“Once again the hand of treachery has reached the military institution in a clear targeting of security and stability,” the Lebanese military said in a statement after Monday’s attack.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said the bombing was aimed at undermining efforts to reconcile Lebanon’s various rival factions.

Syria too denounced the bombing, calling it a “terrorist and criminal act”.

A similar bombing in the Syrian capital Damascus killed at least 17 people just two days ago.

The Syrian authorities have blamed the attack on Islamist extremists, and say the car came from a “neighbouring Arab country”.

Some analysts believe this new trend for car bombings in the region is directly linked to the changing situation in Iraq.

As the security situation improves there, analysts say, so insurgents are driving their members across the border into neighboring countries.


Are you in the area? Have you been affected by the violence in northern Lebanon? Send us your comments

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August 14, 2008

Lebanon chief mends ties in Syria

Lebanon chief mends ties in Syria

The Lebanese and Syrian presidents have been holding talks in Damascus, where they formally confirmed a move to establish full diplomatic relations.

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman was given a red-carpet welcome by President Bashar al-Assad, the first such visit after a turbulent three years.

Tension has been high since the 2005 assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Many Lebanese blame Damascus for the killing, but it denies involvement.

The two leaders were meeting in the Syrian capital a month after a summit in Paris, where they agreed to establish diplomatic ties and open embassies.

“The two presidents… have instructed their foreign ministers to take the necessary steps in this regard, starting from today,” said Buthaina Shaaban, an adviser to President Assad.

The Arab neighbours are set to normalise relations for the first time since the Arab neighbours gained independence from France in the 1940s.

Hours before Mr Suleiman flew to Damascus for the two-day visit, a bomb exploded in the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli, the scene of fierce street fighting between pro- and anti-Syria supporters since May.

Lebanon’s pro-Syrian parliament speaker Nabih Berri said the timing of the attack was meant “to prevent the improvement of Lebanese-Syrian relations”.

Syria’s foreign ministry called the attack a “criminal act” and voiced support for Lebanon “in the face of all those who are manipulating its security and stability”.

Tough issues

The BBC’s Bethany Bell in Damascus says despite progress in relations between the two nations, potential stumbling blocks remain – not least over the international tribunal into the death of Mr Hariri.

Past international investigators said Syrian intelligence and its Lebanese associates had played a role, although the report of the latest prosecutor – Daniel Bellemare of Canada – spoke of a criminal network without saying whether it had political motives.

Syrian officials have consistently and strenuously denied any Syrian role.

Syria kept a large military and intelligence presence in Lebanon after the civil war ended in 1990, but it was forced to withdraw after the Hariri assassination because of massive public pressure in Lebanon with strong international support.

Settling relations with Syria is a top priority for the new government in Lebanon.

The unity coalition was formed after the Qatari-mediated Doha accord which ended months of deadlock and bouts of violence between pro-Syria factions and supporters of the Western-backed government.

The Doha accord also allowed the installation of former army chief Mr Suleiman as president, a candidate deemed acceptable on both sides of the political divide.

Other issues for discussion in Damascus are likely to be demarcating the mountainous Lebanon-Syria border and determining the fate of Lebanese detainees in Syria.

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