TRIPOLI, Lebanon, (AP) – A car bomb exploded Monday near a military bus carrying troops going to work in northern Lebanon, killing at least five people and injuring 25 others, Lebanese security officials said.
The officials said most of the casualties were soldiers. It was the second deadly attack targeting troops in northern Lebanon in less than two months.
A senior military official told The Associated Press that three soldiers were among the dead, but had no breakdown of the number of injured among the troops.
The security officials said the car packed with explosives was parked on the side of a road and detonated by remote control as the bus drove in the Bahsas neighborhood on the southern entrance to the northern port city of Tripoli.
They said the explosives used were mixed with metal balls to maximize casualties.
The blast, which tossed the car about a dozen yards, occurred during the morning rush hour, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Television footage showed soldiers sealing off the area and preventing people from approaching the blast scene. The explosion shattered windows of cars parked in the area. Police forensic experts in plain clothes searched for evidence in the bus wreckage. Pieces of flesh were strewn on the road.
Tripoli has been rocked by sectarian fighting between pro-government Sunni fighters and pro-Syrian gunmen of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam that killed or wounded dozens in the summer before a truce was reached.
On Aug. 13, 18 soldiers and civilians were killed by a roadside bomb near a bus carrying troops on a busy Tripoli street. It was Lebanon’s deadliest bombing in more than three years.
Monday’s explosion came two days after a massive bombing in the capital of neighboring Syria killed 17 people and wounded 14. Syrian authorities on Monday said the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber and that the vehicle came from a neighboring Arab country.
Tripoli, about 50 miles north of Beirut on the Mediterranean coast, is a majority Sunni city and is Lebanon’s second-largest. The region there is known to be a strong base for Sunni militants.
Sheik Daie al-Islam al-Shahal, founder of the fundamentalist Salafi Sunni movement in northern Lebanon, said Monday’s attack was part of the conflict among “external forces” in Lebanon and rejected suggestions that Sunni militants were behind it.
“The false allegations and haste do not help stability and cause tensions,” said al-Shahal, Lebanon’s most powerful Salafist leader.