HERMEL/BEIRUT: A suicide car bomb attack in the northeastern city of Hermel Saturday killed at least four people, including the bomber, and wounded 23 others, security sources said, in an attack that was claimed by an Al-Qaeda-linked group.
The suicide bomber drove his vehicle – a Grand Cherokee Jeep – up to a petrol station in the Zahraa area of the city where he then proceeded to detonate it, the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
Fire trucks rushed to the Aytam gas station where flames soared into the night sky.
Residents were urged to keep away from the raging flames as paramedics, hampered by power cuts, moved in to pull out casualties.
The sources identified Isam Kheireddine and Ali Amir Allaw as two of the four killed in the blast and said two of the wounded were in serious condition.
The Lebanon branch of the Nusra Front, a radical Syrian rebel force listed as a terror group by the United States, claimed responsibility for the attack, citing Hezbollah’s military involvement in Syria.
"As the party of Iran [Hezbollah] continues to carry out crimes against our people in the beloved Aleppo and its insistence on sending more of its fighters into Syria, we had to stop its massacres and respond in kind against its stronghold so that the party can re-evaluate its position," a statement by the Nusra Front in Lebanon said on its twitter account.
The Al-Qaeda offshot, which claimed responsibility for a similar deadly bombing in Hermel on Jan. 16, said recurrences of such attacks only pointed to “Hezbollah's weakness.”
The Nusra Front in Lebanon has claimed responsibility for three bombings in Lebanon.
Lebanon has increasingly been affected by the war in neighboring Syria where rebel groups are seeking to topple President Bashar Assad. The Syrian leader is backed by Iran and it’s Lebanon ally Hezbollah.
Areas of the country where Hezbollah enjoys wide support like Hermel and Beirut’s southern suburbs have seen frequent car bombings in recent months.
The Nusra Front in Lebanon and other linked Al-Qaeda groups have claimed responsibility for the attacks, vowing similar actions until Hezbollah withdraws its fighters from Syria.
Citing a preliminary investigation, caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel told a local television station Saturday’s attack was likely the work of a suicide bomber.
According to the National New Agency, the bomber drove up to the gas station and asked one of the workers there to fill his gas tank. Seconds later, the bomber detonated his explosives while in the car. – With additional reporting by Dana Khraiche