An explosion in Beirut on Friday killed at least six people, including a former Lebanese ambassador to the U.S. who was a leader of the Western-backed coalition that opposes the militant group Hezbollah.
More than 70 other people were injured by the car bomb, authorities say.
Hezbollah is allied with Syrian President Bashar Assad. The explosion in neighboring Lebanon is another sign that the conflict in Syria is spilling across the border. As The Associated Press writes, “several recent bombings have targeted senior Hezbollah figures or districts where the Shiite group dominates.” Now Hezbollah’s Sunni opponents appear to have been targeted.
Correspondent Susannah George, who is in Beirut, tells our Newscast Desk that “the blast ripped leaves off trees and set cars ablaze in a business district. … Nearby office buildings and shops had their windows blown out. … This is the second bombing to hit Beirut in the past two months. In November, a pair of suicide car bombs exploded outside the Iranian embassy.”
The former ambassador, Mohammed Chatah, was a senior aide to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Lebanese security officials tell the AP that Chatah was headed to a meeting at Hariri’s home when the blast occurred.
Chatah was also a former finance minister. The BBC adds that he was “a staunch critic of President Assad and Hezbollah.”
Update at 8:20 a.m. ET. Death Toll Raised:
The AP now reports that at least six people were killed by the blast. Earlier, news outlets were reporting there had been five deaths. We’ve updated the top of this post to reflect the new estimate.