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Beirut Explosion Killing 24 May Have Been Suicide Car Bombing

Image: Beirut Explosion Killing 24 May Have Been Suicide Car Bombing

By Newsmax Wires   |   Friday, 16 Aug 2013 07:33 AM

An explosion in Beirut that tore through a Hezbollah stronghold, killing 24, is being investigated by government officials as a possible suicide car bombing.

The explosion's death toll has since risen to two dozen as of Friday, Reuters reported.

Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said investigators were checking CCTV footage in the moments before the explosion to see whether the van which was believed to be carrying the bomb had been driven by a suicide bomber or detonated remotely.

"The first hypothesis is that the driver blew himself up, while the second hypothesis says that the car may have been blown up from a distance," Lebanon's National News Agency quoted Charbel as saying.

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Reporters who arrived at the scene minutes after the explosion saw a burnt-out car near the centre of the road, suggesting it was being driven when it blew up.

Hezbollah parliamentarian Ali Ammar told reporters in south Beirut on Friday that the death toll had reached 24, while Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said 21 bodies were taken to hospitals and another 335 wounded people had been treated.

The discrepancy in death tolls may be the result of some bodies being too badly damaged in the explosion to be collected or identified.

Among the dead were a family of five - a father, mother and their three daughters - who were killed in their car by the blast, which destroyed several vehicles and briefly engulfed the lower floors of adjacent building in flames, trapping residents.

Forensic investigators, emergency workers and security forces were still working at the site on Friday morning, amid burnt out cars and charred facades of residential buildings.

Nearby, masked men fired in the air as the first funeral processions of victims of Thursday's explosion drove slowly through the streets of densely populated south Beirut.

The blast, a month after another car bomb wounded more than 50 people in the same district of the Lebanese capital, came amid sectarian tensions over the intervention of Shi'ite Muslim Hezbollah against Sunni rebels in Syria's civil war.

A Sunni Islamist group calling itself the Brigades of Aisha claimed responsibility for the attack and promised more operations against Hezbollah.

Residents of southern Beirut say Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria, had been on high alert and stepped up security in the area after warnings from Syrian rebels of possible retaliation for the group's support for President Bashar al-Assad.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is expected to give his response later on Friday in an address marking the seventh anniversary of the end of Hezbollah's 2006 war with Israel.

Many Lebanese politicians pointed the blame at Israel in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, but Israeli President Shimon Peres said Lebanon should look elsewhere for the culprit.

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"I was surprised," he told a joint news conference with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "Why should (they) look to Israel? (They have) a Hezbollah that collects bombs, that goes and kills people in Syria without the permission of the Lebanese government."

Hezbollah, which literally translates into "Party of Allah" or "Party of God," was officially founded in 1985 and is a paramilitary terrorist organization that follows the Islamic Shi'a theology developed by Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

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