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Achrafieh 16 September 2005  

Powerful Bomb Devastates Densely Populated Beirut Neighborhood, 1 killed, 25 Injured    by: Naharnet.

A powerful bomb ripped through a densely populated Beirut neighborhood five minutes before midnight, killing a Lebanese Armenian and wounding 25 persons in a savage persistence of destabilizing attacks that rocked Lebanon since Syria's evacuation.

The explosion went off in Ashrafiyeh's middle class district of Jeitawi as the nation's top officials are abroad. President Lahoud and Premier Seniora are at the United Nations and Parliament Speaker Berri is vacationing with his wife in Spain.

It struck a 4-storey building near a bank and a hospital at a Jeitawi alleyway, wreaking extensive destruction across the neighborhood. Balconies were torn off buildings overlooking the scene, where cars were still smoldering Saturday morning. Glass shards of smashed windows littered areas within a one-mile radius.

Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi, commander of the Internal Security Forces, said the explosive had been placed in a bag that was hidden between two cars, and detonated with a timing device.

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The Agence France Presse quoted security services as saying a 10-to-20 kilogram bomb exploded in the stairways of a building, noting that initial reports spoke of a car bomb.

Investigating magistrate Rashid Mezher said Saturday a woman resident saw two young men placing two suitcases between two parked cars before running off. Her son, who ran across the alley to warn customers at a nearby cafe, was wounded in the blast, judicial sources said.

An LBCI reporter said the explosion went off near the coffee shop, killing its Lebanese Armenian owner and wounding 25 people in and around the café. Ambulances with wailing sirens rushed victims off to the nearby St. Georges and Jeitawi hospitals. One Injured person was reported in a very serious condition.

The blast came days ahead of an expected visit by Chief U.N. investigator Detlev Mehlis to Damascus to interview senior Syrian officials over the deadliest of Lebanon's recent bomb attacks — the Feb. 14 one-ton bomb that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, ex-Economy Minister Bassel Fleihan and 21 others.

An anti-Syrian legislator accused the remnants of Syria's security apparatus of being behind Friday's blast. "The remains of the Syrian and Lebanese security regime are still present and they are behind this act," said Atef Majdalani, of Saad Hariri's Tayyar al Mustaqbal movement.

Another anti-Syrian legislator and cabinet minister, Michel Pharaoun, also from Hariri's group, said "it is for sure a message against stability in Lebanon." He added that it comes before a planned conference to help Lebanon in New York on Monday and ahead of the beginning of the U.N. probe into Syria's involvement in Rafik Hariri's murder.

Many Lebanese have expressed worries that bombings could increase as the investigation pushes forward. The U.N. team has already accused the four pro-Syrian commanding generals of Lebanon's main security services with complicity in Hariri's murder.

It was the 12th bomb attack in Lebanon since the February assassination of ex-premier Hariri.

Lebanese troops and police sealed off the area of the explosion which reverberated across the entire capital. Fire engines battled to extinguish fires and help evacuate residents.

"I was sleeping when I heard a loud explosion. I thought that it was an aerial bombing," one resident, Angele, told AFP after running out of her nearby apartment building.(Naharnet-AP-AFP)








 
 
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