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Latest attack marks fourth car bombing in four weeks
A man checks charred cars at the site of an explosion in Haret Hreik, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)
A man checks charred cars at the site of an explosion in Haret Hreik, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)
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BEIRUT: The car bomb that ripped through the Beirut southern suburb of Haret Hreik Tuesday was one of four to rock the country in four weeks, and the third to target an area where Hezbollah enjoys support.

The 10:55 a.m. attack on the bustling Al-Arid Street in the southern suburb occurred just meters away from the site of a similar bombing earlier in the month and is the latest in a series of incidents that began right before the start of the year. The attack was claimed by the Nusra Front.

On Dec. 27 at around 9:45 a.m., a car bomb exploded near the Starco building in Downtown Beirut, targeting former Minister Mohammad Shatah’s vehicle as he was making his way to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s downtown residence, where a meeting of the March 14 coalition was underway.

The attack targeted Shatah, 62, who was a senior aide to Hariri. Eight people were killed in the bombing, including Shatah’s bodyguard Mohammad Tareq Badr, 16-year-old Mohammad Shaar and Anwar al-Badawi. At least 75 people were wounded.

Investigators tracked the path of the explosives-rigged vehicle, a Honda CRV, which was stolen in 2012 in Saadiyat, in Mount Lebanon, and sold in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation assisted Lebanese authorities with the probe, which has made little progress.

Responsibility for the attack was not claimed, but it came three weeks before the start of trial of four Hezbollah suspects at the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The March 14 coalition pointed the finger of blame at the Syrian regime, which denied any involvement in the attack.

On Jan. 2 at 4:10 p.m., a 1993 dark green Grand Cherokee rigged with about 20 kilograms of explosive material detonated near Al-Jawad restaurant in the Beirut southern suburb of Haret Hreik, where Hezbollah enjoys broad support, killing five people and wounding 77 others.

The suicide bomber was later identified as 19-year-old north Lebanon resident Qotaiba Mohammad al-Satem, whose personal documents were discovered in the vehicle.

Less than a week after the attack, the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria claimed responsibility for the car bombing. A statement issued online by the group said the attack was “the first installment of a heavy account that awaits these shameless criminals,” referring to Hezbollah.

On Jan. 16 at 8:55 a.m., a rigged Kia Sportage exploded in the bustling city of Hermel, in the Bekaa Valley, killing five people and wounding 42 others, in what was believed to be a suicide attack.

The blast occurred during the morning rush hour near the town’s government building, while many were making their way to work.

Before the attack, Hermel, where Hezbollah also enjoys support, had been the site of frequent rocket attacks launched from Syria.

The attack was claimed by the Nusra Front in Lebanon, in retaliation for Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria. The dead were identified as Hussein Ali Omar, a Harmoush family member, and Syrian worker Hussein Nayef.

The remains of two other identified bodies, one believed to belong to the suicide bomber, were found at the site of the attack.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 22, 2014, on page 2.
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Story Summary
The car bomb that ripped through the Beirut southern suburb of Haret Hreik Tuesday was one of four to rock the country in four weeks, and the third to target an area where Hezbollah enjoys support.

The attack was claimed by the Nusra Front.

On Jan. 2 at 4:10 p.m., a 1993 dark green Grand Cherokee rigged with about 20 kilograms of explosive material detonated near Al-Jawad restaurant in the Beirut southern suburb of Haret Hreik, where Hezbollah enjoys broad support, killing five people and wounding 77 others.

Before the attack, Hermel, where Hezbollah also enjoys support, had been the site of frequent rocket attacks launched from Syria.
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