5 French peacekeepers wounded in Lebanon bombing

AP News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2011 2:04 PM
5 French peacekeepers wounded in Lebanon bombing

A roadside bomb struck a vehicle carrying United Nations peacekeepers in southern Lebanon on Friday, wounding five French soldiers and a Lebanese bystander, officials said.

This was the third bombing this year targeting the international force known as UNIFIL, which is deployed to keep the peace along Lebanon's southern border with Israel. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The explosion comes amid fears that violence in neighboring Syria might spread into the tiny Mediterranean nation, which was dominated by Damascus for three decades until Syrian troops withdrew in 2005.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe called on Lebanese authorities to bring those responsible to justice and to guarantee the security of the peacekeepers.

"France, determined to carry out its commitment within (UNIFIL), will not let itself be intimidated by these despicable acts," Juppe said in a statement.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack and called it "deeply disturbing."

The militant Hezbollah group, which enjoys wide support in southern Lebanon, also condemned the bombing. It said in a statement that such acts of violence "target Lebanon's security and the stability of its south in particular."

The bomb exploded in the Bourj al-Shamali area, near the port city of Tyre, said a Lebanese security official who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. The Lebanese Red Cross said that a civilian was also wounded.

France said the wounded soldiers were evacuated for medical treatment.

U.N. peacekeepers have been deployed in southern Lebanon since 1978 to monitor the border with Israel. The force was boosted to almost 12,000 troops after Israel and Hezbollah fought a war in 2006.

Under the U.N. resolution that ended the fighting, the mission is monitoring a zone south of the Litani River where Hezbollah is banned from keeping weapons.

In May, a roadside bomb struck a convoy carrying Italian peacekeepers in southern Lebanon, wounding six of them. Two months later, a roadside bomb blew up next to a U.N. convoy carrying French peacekeepers, wounding at least five.

The deadliest assault on the U.N. peacekeeping force was in June 2007, when a bomb hit an armored personnel carrier near the Israeli border and killed six Spanish peacekeepers.

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Bassem Mroue can be reached on http://twitter.com/bmroue