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Lebanon Banking Sector Receives Warning Message | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A wrecked vehicle is seen as policemen and civilians inspect the site of an explosion at Blom Bank in Beirut, Lebanon June 12, 2016. Jamal Saidi/Reuters

Beirut-Lebanon’s banking sector received an intense warning when an explosion hit a Lebanese bank on Sunday evening. It was clear that the operation did not aim to cause fatalities, but rather to hit the banking sector currently in a bad relation with the so-called Hezbollah after banks closed accounts linked to the party’s members in line with a U.S. law targeting the party’s financing.

Following the explosion in Beirut’s Verdun area, Lebanese Interior Minister Nohad al-Mashnouq refused to accuse any party before investigations were complete. However, he hinted that the operation was linked to the current crisis between the party and banks, “particularly that the targeted bank was the first to implement the U.S. law.”

Mashnouq told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that “the banking sector is stronger that any explosion because it represents all Lebanese. This is a truly successful sector that will implement fully the law whatever happens.”

Mashnouq said that Sunday’s blast was different from the explosions that security forces had feared, in a hint to the Western and local alerts about possible ISIS terrorist acts that could happen in Lebanon during the month of Ramadan.

He said: “This is also a terrorist act, but it is different” from other explosions that occurred in Lebanon in the past years.

Following the explosion, Deputy Walid Jumblat accused Israel for having a hand in the operation, and called for a dialogue between banks and the so-called Hezbollah. Jumblat said that the banking sector was targeted.

Meanwhile, Blom Bank refused to accuse any party of standing behind the explosion, which occurred at the Verdun branch’s main gate.

Blom Bank chairman Saad Azhari said: “We haven’t received any threat, and we are against reaching predetermined conclusions before investigations are complete.”

Azhari asserted that as a bank, “we are keen on working positively and in the benefit of all people, and therefore we won’t take any measures to harm any particulate faction.”

The bomb which went off at dawn Sunday was planted near the building of Blom Bank in Verdun. The explosion was prepared in a way not to cause fatalities, after it was placed in a side street, during the hours of the breaking of Ramadan fasts.

The National News Agency quoted the Lebanese Red Cross as saying that there were two minor injuries due to shattered glass.

Security forces had rushed to the explosion scene and cordoned off the area. Several political figures condemned the explosion.

Smoke had been seen coming up from the Verdun area following the blast. Television footage showed photos of the damaged building and said “shattered glass had littered the ground from several floors.”

A security source said the bomb contained 2 kg of explosives.

Mashnouq said that the bomb was placed in a bag near the wall of the building, adding that “it is a clear political message that (Blom Bank) was the target.”

He added that the attack was not linked to ISIS, which had previously carried out several explosions in Beirut.

Sunday’s explosion comes on the eve of an alert issued by the Canadian Embassy to its nationals not to visit restaurants in downtown Beirut and the Hamra street area during the weekend. The mission also asked its employees to avoid crowded areas.