Lebanon's interior minister says Beirut blast targeted bank

AP News
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Posted: Jun 13, 2016 10:23 AM
Lebanon's interior minister says Beirut blast targeted bank

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanese authorities said Monday that a bomb blast the previous day that damaged the headquarters of Lebanon's second biggest bank specifically targeted that financial institution.

However, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk warned against casting blame before an investigation is finished.

The Sunday night explosion outside the BLOM Bank building in Beirut, which left one person wounded, was an attack on the entire bank sector, said the Association of Banks in Lebanon. The blast also destroyed several cars and damaged several floors of the bank's exterior.

No group claimed responsibility and it was not immediately clear why BLOM was targeted. The bank has closed accounts linked to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, to comply with a recent U.S. law punishing those doing business with the Shiite militant group.

Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese coalition government and supports a wide network of hospitals and social institutions in the country. Local papers have reported that the group has started to finance its institutions in cash. Pro-Hezbollah politicians have recently criticized the BLOM bank for abiding by the new U.S. regulations.

Meanwhile, forensic teams sifted through the explosion area Monday and work crews removed debris in the affluent residential-commercial quarter where the bombing took place. State Prosecutor Samir Hammoud said the explosion was caused by an 8-kilogram (18- pound) bomb.

The bomb went off shortly after the start of the iftar evening meal — when Muslims break their dawn-to-dusk fast during the holy month of Ramadan.