BEIRUT: A suicide bomber blew himself up at a Beirut hotel Wednesday evening during a security raid, wounding 11 people, a security source told The Daily Star, in the third explosion in less than a week.
The source said the bomber was a Saudi national and blew himself up in his room on the third floor of the Duroy Hotel in the bustling district of Raouche, a few meters away from the Saudi Embassy.
Security forces arrested a suspect at the hotel who the source said was a potential suicide bomber.
Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said the potential bomber was a Saudi national and was currently being treated at a Beirut hospital.
“This was a pre-emptive strike by General Security because the suicide bombers were supposed to carry out an attack in another location,” Machnouk told reporters at the site of the explosion.
“This is not the first time that security forces have prevented a suicide bomber from reaching their target.”
Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr said three General Security personnel were among the wounded in the explosion, which occurred around 7:30 p.m.
“Lebanon and anyone who does their job to combat terrorism is being targeted, said head of General Security Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, who visited the wounded at the American University of Beirut Medical Center.
“Such attacks will not intimidate us.”
An employee at the hotel told The Daily Star that the hotel was hosting a function in its lobby when security forces stormed the premises.
“Seconds later, the blast happened,” said the employee, Mohammad.
Fire raged inside the seven-story building as plumes of smoke rose from two rooms and covered the city’s skylines.
Members of General Security cordoned off the area and deployed in surrounding neighborhoods as they continued their security operation.
Media reports said security forces apprehended three people of Arab nationality who are part of a terror cell.
Separately, security forces arrested three Saudi women and two Syrian men in the Bekaa Valley town of Ablah and confiscated a suitcase believed to be stacked with explosives, a security source said.
The Saudi Embassy in Beirut said it was coordinating with Lebanese security forces to determine the identity of the suicide bomber and whether his Identification Card was forged.
Earlier in the day, the Lebanese Army said that it arrested a five-member terror group, which a security source said was planning to assassinate the head of General Security in north Lebanon, Lt. Col. Khattar Nassereddine.
The explosion comes just two days after a suicide bomber killed a General Security sergeant at a checkpoint in the Beirut suburb of Tayyouneh. And on June 20, a suicide bomber killed a police officer at a checkpoint in the east Lebanon town of Dahr al-Baidar, coinciding with a raid on a Beirut hotel and the arrest of several terror suspects.
Wednesday's security raid is part of ongoing efforts to prevent a spillover from neighboring Syria and the quickly deteriorating crisis in Iraq. Authorities have said they are in pursuit of militants in Lebanon that might have infiltrated the country with the aim of carrying out terrorist attacks.
Meanwhile, the French Embassy deplored the blast, saying that Paris “condemns terrorism and supports Lebanese institutions tasked with combating it.”