Car explodes near Hezbollah base in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 17, 2013 10:29 AM
Car explodes near Hezbollah base in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley

BEIRUT (Reuters) - An explosives-laden car blew up on Tuesday in a remote region of the Bekaa Valley controlled by Lebanon's Shi'ite Hezbollah movement, killing the driver and wounding at least two people who were pursuing the vehicle, security sources said.

The incident occurred about 20 km (13 miles) from the border with Syria, whose 33-month-old conflict has fuelled sectarian violence in Lebanon, including a series of car bombings which have killed scores of Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims.

The sources said Hezbollah officials, alerted to a suspicious car soon after 3 a.m., began to follow it in two vehicles. The car then exploded.

Footage broadcast by Hezbollah's Al Manar television showed at least two damaged vehicles, one of them overturned, and several piles of blackened, twisted metal scattered over a muddy and partially snow-covered plain.

Al Manar's correspondent said the suspect car had been carrying about 50 kg (110 pounds) of explosives and its intended target was a Hezbollah base. He said there had been casualties and that villagers in the area also reported hearing gunfire.

Many Lebanese Sunni Muslims support the rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose Alawite faith is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam. Shi'ite Hezbollah has sent thousands of fighters to support Assad, while many Sunni jihadis have flocked to Syria to join the rebels.

The conflict has seeped back into Lebanon. Twin blasts struck the embassy of Iran - Hezbollah's patron - in Beirut last month. Bombs have also targeted Shi'ite districts of the capital and Sunni mosques in the northern city of Tripoli.

Four missiles from Syria landed near the Shi'ite town of Hermel in the northern Bekaa on Tuesday evening, wounding two Lebanese army soldiers, a security source said. Sunni Syrian rebels have fired into the town several times this year.

(Reporting by Dominic Evans; Editing by Alistair Lyon)