BEIRUT (AP) — An al-Qaida-linked group has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing against Lebanese soldiers that killed at least three people, the latest attack linked to the war in neighboring Syria.
The Nusra Front in Lebanon said in a statement on Twitter late Saturday that one of their followers blew himself up at an army checkpoint in the Shiite-dominated northeastern town of Hermel earlier in the day. The group said it was targeting the town in retaliation for the Shiite militant group Hezbollah fighting alongside troops of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The attack killed two soldiers and a civilian, and wounded another 18.
More than a dozen bombings have targeted mostly Shiite areas around Lebanon since July.
The attacks are mostly claimed by hard-line Sunni groups seeking revenge against Hezbollah for supporting Assad. The bulk of the casualties are usually civilians and the claims of responsibility usually name pro-Hezbollah neighborhoods as the targets, as opposed to the group's fighters or offices.
In a statement linked to the group's Twitter page, the Nusra Front did not mention targeting soldiers in Hermel, but Lebanese extremist Sunni groups typically view the army as working in step with Hezbollah.
The terse statement referred to a "blessed martyrdom operation" and published three pictures of children, two boys and a girl, with amputated hands and legs under the headline "Crimes of the party of Iran (Hezbollah) in Syria."
The Nusra Front in Lebanon appears inspired by an al-Qaida-linked rebel brigade in Syria sharing the same name.
On Feb. 1, a suicide attack at a gas station in Hermel killed at least three people. On Wednesday, two suicide bombers blew up their cars near an Iranian cultural center in Beirut, killing at least eight people and wounding scores, including children in an orphanage.
Since December, troops have been on high alert searching suspicious cars for fear of more suicide attacks.
Lebanese soldiers have arrested about half a dozen people suspected in planning bombings around the country.
Associated Press writer Maamoun Yousef contributed to this report from Cairo.