HERMEL: Lebanese authorities struggled Sunday to find traces of the suicide bomber who targeted an Army post a day earlier in the northeastern town of Hermel, as the Lebanese Army released photos of the two soldiers who were killed in the attack.
The bomber, who was driving a black Grand Cherokee, was "scattered into tiny pieces," making it difficult to collect samples for DNA testing, a security expert told The Daily Star.
The bomber detonated at an Army checkpoint at the main entrance of Hermel Saturday night, killing three people including two soldiers and wounding 17 others.
The Lebanese Army released photos of the soldiers who were identified as 25-year-old officer Elias Khoury from the eastern town of Zahle and Hamzeh Faitruny, 26, from Baalbek.
The Lebanon branch of Nusra Front, the radical rebel group fighting in Syria, claimed responsibility for the attack citing Hezbollah’s role in the war-torn country. Hermel is one of several areas associated with Hezbollah.
The Lebanese Army said the bomb contained 125 kilograms of explosives while a security source said the 1994 Grand Cherokee was most likely smuggled from Syria.
The explosion damaged a number of nearby shops and residential buildings and set ablaze several vehicles which were thrown meters away by the force of the blast.
Security forces cordoned off the site of the deadly blast and opened an alternative road for residents to enter the town.
President Michel Sleiman offered his condolences to the families of the victims and said the Army had become the main target of terrorist acts.
"I salute the Lebanese Army, which, as a result of carrying out its national duty in protecting citizens from terrorism and crime, has become the primary target of terrorist acts,” Sleiman said in a statement.
He also said "the martyrdom of a soldier is the price the military pays for preserving the lives of young men and women, the elderly and children."
He also called on the military and security forces to be more determined to face terrorism and safeguard the country.
This is the third suicide attack this year in Hermel.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 Hermel explosion, the Army vowed to carry on its fight against terrorism “regardless of the sacrifices,” urging the public to rally around the military institution.
“Once again, the Army pays the price of combating terrorism and seeking to preserve civil peace,” the military said in a statement.
"The Army will not end its fight against those trying to harm Lebanon and will continue working to uncover 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 the Nusra Front.