A suicide bomb killed at least five people in Beirut’s southern suburb, a residential neighborhood that’s also the main stronghold of Hezbollah, the latest in a string of attacks in Lebanon as sectarian violence escalates.
Two women were among the dead, Hezbollah’s Al Manar television reported. The attacker was probably driving a white KIA vehicle, according to the state-run National News Agency, which said at least 26 people were wounded.
The civil war in neighboring Syria has deepened rifts between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Lebanon, leading to a wave of attacks against religious, civilian and political targets. Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militant group, acknowledged last year that its fighters were supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against the mainly Sunni rebels.
The al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front in Lebanon, an offshoot of the group fighting in Syria, claimed today’s car bomb in a post on its Twitter account, saying it came in response to “the massacres of Iran’s party,” Hezbollah, against Syrians. The group has claimed previous bombings against Hezbollah.
A car bomb in another Hezbollah stronghold in eastern Lebanon killed four people Jan. 16. A Sunni group linked to al- Qaeda claimed responsibility for the November bombing of the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, which killed at least one diplomat.
Sunnis have also been targeted. Two explosions killed 50 worshipers at Friday prayers in the northern city of Tripoli in August, and a car bomb killed former Finance Minister Mohamad Chatah in central Beirut last month.
Violence, political turmoil and the influx of Syrian refugees have slowed economic growth and deterred tourists. Gross domestic product, which expanded 7 percent in 2010, hasn’t grown more than 1.5 percent in the last three years, according to the International Monetary Fund.