HERMEL/BEIRUT: A suicide car bombing targeting an Army post in the northeastern town of Hermel killed three people including two soldiers and wounded 17 others Saturday, a security source told The Daily Star.
The Lebanon branch of the Nusra Front, a radical Syrian rebel force, claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing, saying it was part of a “series of vengeful attacks.”
The group, listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, has vowed to carry out attacks in Lebanon in retaliation to Hezbollah’s military role in Syria.
Saturday’s bombing was the second such attack this week following twin suicide bombings near the Iranian Cultural Center just south of Beirut which killed 10 people.
Army officer Elias Khoury, soldier Hamzeh Faitruny and Mohammad Ayyoub were killed in the explosion, the source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
Four soldiers were among those wounded.
The suicide bomber, who was driving a Grand Cherokee, detonated the bomb after soldiers grew suspicious of him at a military checkpoint set up at the entrance of Hermel, the source said.
Ambulances and fire trucks rushed to the scene of the explosion which occurred around 7 p.m.
Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr tasked the Military Police with collecting evidence and beginning DNA tests on the human remains found at the site of the attack.
This is the third suicide attack this year in the northeastern town where Hezbollah enjoys broad support.
The most recent explosion was on Feb. 1 when a suicide car bomber killed four people in an attack also claimed by Nusra Front in Lebanon.
Hours after the explosion, the Lebanese Army said the suicide bomber detonated his vehicle shortly after soldiers stopped him at the checkpoint, vowing to carry on its fight against terrorism.
“Once again, the Lebanese Army pays the price of combating terrorism as [the military] seeks to preserve civil peace,” the Army’s General Directorate said in a statement.
“Today, soldiers were martyred in a suicide attack targeting the Lebanese Army with the aim of intimidating it and spreading chaos,” it added, without specifying the number of casualties.
It also said that Saturday’s deadly attack should be reason enough for citizens to increase their support for the Army.
"The Army will not end its fight against those trying to harm Lebanon and will continue working on uncovering terrorist networks and pursuing the perpetrators regardless of the sacrifices,” the statement said.
The Army has recently arrested a number of suspects belonging to Al-Qaeda-linked groups including the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and Nusra Front.
Meanwhile, British Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher condemned the attack, saying his country would help rebuild the checkpoint and offer protective kits to the Army.
“Appalled that our [Lebanon] army allies hit by cowardly terrorism tonight. We'll help rebuild Hermel checkpoint+offer $500,000 of protective kit,” Fletcher said in his Twitter feed.