BEIRUT: A suicide bomber who killed a security officer and wounded 25 people in a midnight attack in Beirut neighborhood had intended to carry out the bombing in the capital's southern suburbs, a judicial source said.
The bomber was heading to a bigger target in suburbs, the source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Daily Star, adding that the perpetrator deliberately drove through Tayyouneh’s inner streets to escape the Lebanese Army checkpoint.
The suburbs have been a target of several suicide attacks both last year and early this year claimed by Islamist groups fighting in Syria. Primarily these attacks have come from the Nusra Front, who have said that the bombings were in retaliation to Hezbollah’s role in the Syrian crisis.
The source said the bomber’s vehicle experienced a sudden malfunction, forcing him to stop in the middle of the road outside a café in the neighborhood.
The car’s sudden stop raised the suspicion of two General Security personnel who happened to be driving along the same road. The two men stepped out of the vehicle and questioned the bomber.
The bomber’s nervous behavior prompted Ali Jaber to race to the Army checkpoint to alert them while Abdul-Karim Hodroj, a General Security sergeant, stayed with the bomber to make sure he did not escape.
Seconds later, the bomber detonated the vehicle, which the source said was stacked with at least 25 kilograms of explosives.
Luckily, one of the detonators malfunctioned, preventing a bigger catastrophe, the source said.
DNA tests confirmed that Hodroj, who was reported missing just after the blast, had been killed.
A security source said 25 people were wounded in the 11:40 p.m. explosion in Tayyouneh, one of the main entrances into Beirut's southern suburbs.
Lebanese Red Cross official George Kettaneh said the wounded, many from the Abu Assaf Café, suffered minor injuries in the attack. The café-goers were watching the Brazil vs. Cameroon World Cup game.
Kettaneh told The Daily Star that most of the wounded had left the hospital. He said a foreign domestic worker was among the wounded.
The security sources said that Hodroj and another General Security officer, Ali Jaber, had intercepted the bomber's car after he drove the wrong way down the street.
Hodroj had put his gun to the driver's head, while Jaber rushed to get help from the nearby Army checkpoint, when the bomber blew himself up.
Hodroj was ripped apart in the blast, while Jaber was wounded and taken to Sahel Hospital. An Army statement said the white Mercedes was rigged with 25 kilograms of TNT.
The security sources said Jaber heard the bomber speaking with a Syrian accent.
The state-run National News Agency said the force of the blast had tossed the suicide bomber against the wall of a fourth-floor apartment in a nearby building. Human remains and blood littered the balcony floor.
Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr ordered security agencies to launch an investigation. Saqr, who visited the blast scene Tuesday morning, said explosives were planted everywhere in the car. He would not give further details pending outcome of the investigation.
Immediately after the explosion, dozens of people flocked to the bombing site, prompting the Lebanese Army to fire shots in the air to disperse the crowd and facilitate rescue and evacuation operations.
Eyewitnesses noted that the bombing caused significant material damage and wrecked several cars.
Lebanon has been on high alert since a suicide bombing at a police checkpoint on the Beirut-Damascus highway last Friday. A police officer was killed and 33 people were wounded in that bombing, which has fueled fears of violent spillover from the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.