Bomb in northern Lebanese city kills 9
A bomb exploded near a bus carrying civilians and members of the military in the northern city of Tripoli early Wednesday, killing nine people, including seven soldiers, security officials said
The officials said the bomb was planted on the side of a road and went off when the bus passed by. They said the explosion happened as the streets were filled with people heading to work, which contributed to the many casualties.
Television stations reported that about 31 were wounded.
George Kettaneh of the Lebanese Red Cross said rescue services took 14 dead and 40 wounded from the scene of the blast. The dead included 11 off-duty soldiers, he said.
Security officials could not confirm the higher toll and the military had no immediate comment. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
TV footage showed a small public bus riddled with shrapnel from the blast. Shattered glass could be seen in the Banks Street in Tripoli’s center, and soldiers and policemen cordoned off the area to keep onlookers away and to investigate.
Tripoli is Lebanon’s second-largest city with a mostly Sunni Muslim population. In the past weeks it witnessed sectarian clashes between Sunni fighters and followers of the Alawite offshoot Shiite sect. Dozens were killed and wounded in the violence.
The city is also close to the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared, which experienced deadly fighting last year between Lebanese troops and members of the al-Qaida -inspired Fatah Islam group that left hundreds dead before the militants were defeated.
Fatah Islam group has claimed responsibility for a bomb blast that killed a soldier in Abdeh near Tripoli on May 31.
Wednesday’s explosion comes at an especially sensitive time for Lebanon.
After weeks of struggling, the parliament on Tuesday approved a national unity government that gives the Iranian-backed Hezbollah opposition a more powerful say in the running of the country.
Also Wednesday, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman was expected on a landmark visit in Syria — the first visit by a Lebanese president in about three years amid soured relations between the two neighbors.