Deadly car bomb explosion rocks Beirut

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The seemingly endless saga of car bombings continued to haunt citizens of Lebanon on Friday night, when an explosion ripped through multiple cars and buildings, killing one and injuring 19 people.

The blast took place close to midnight near Byblos Bank in the J'eitawi district of Ashrafieh in Beirut.

Bomb triggered by timer

Major General Ashraf Rifi, commander of the Internal Security Forces, confirmed that the bomb was put in a bag and placed between two cars. Rifi was also able to identify a timer used to detonate the bomb.

The bomb shattered through a nearby coffee shop, killing the shop owner upon impact.

Lebanese security forces were quick to respond. They cordoned the bomb site in a swift and professional manner, preventing people from tampering with the evidence.

Dwindling confidence

A series of car bombings preceded this latest explosion, predominantly in Christian areas. While the people are losing count of the bombings, no arrests have been made so far. Public confidence in Lebanon's security state is extremely low, understandably so with the lack of closure to virtually identical crimes.

The bombing is the first since the string of arrests of individuals suspected of murdering Premier Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005. Chief investigator Detlev Mehlis has yet to draw a link between the perpetrators of the Valentines Day massacre, and the subsequent series of car bombings and targeted assassinations since.

The latest exposure of Lebanon's shaky security state comes at a time when the country's two top leaders are absent.

President Emile Lahoud is in New York. Despite repeated calls for Lahoud to cancel his trip, he insisted on attending the U.N. General Assembly, where he delivered a speech today. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora boycotted Lahoud's delegation, declaring it unwise for both the President and Prime Minister to be absent with the current security state.

Despite his previous reservations, Siniora flew to New York on Friday to lead the 'Help Lebanon' conference. The premier will be soliciting international aid to fund political, economic, social and judicial reforms in a post-Syria occupied Lebanon.