By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East
TRIPOLI, Lebanon – On September 29, a bomb exploded in Tripoli, killing several Lebanese soldiers and civilians. Explosives, mixed with nuts and bolts, detonated as a bus carrying Lebanese Army soldiers passed, killing five and wounded at least 17 others. The dead included four soldiers.
Officials state that the bomb was stored in a stationary car and that it was detonated as the bus passed. The detonation occurred at 8:00am, local time. The bus was carrying soldiers, as well as civilians, to work. The police immediately cordoned off the area and forensic experts began collecting evidence.
This is the second attack in the past two months that has targeted the Lebanese military. On August 13, a suitcase bomb exploded as a bus carrying Lebanese Army soldiers passed, killing at least 15, including 9 soldiers. In the earlier attack, explosives were also mixed with nuts and bolts. It was the deadliest in Lebanon in more than three years.
The September 29 attack occurred two days after an alleged suicide attack targeted Syrian security forces in Damascus. According to Syrian authorities, the car, packed with explosives, crossed into Syria from a “neighboring Arab country.” Some have placed blame on Sunni militant groups in the region and claim that sectarian tensions in neighboring countries, such as Iraq and Lebanon, are spilling over into Syria.
Tripoli has been the site of a number of sectarian battles, with dozens of people killed or wounded in recent fighting between pro-government Sunni fighters and pro-Syrian Shias. Despite the recent reconciliation agreement, sectarian tensions are still high.
For example, last month Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian President, stated that Sunni extremists were destabilizing north Lebanon. Then, two weeks ago, Assad deployed thousands of Syrian troops along the north Lebanon border. The official reason cited by the Lebanese Army is to fight smuggling. However the deployment triggered fears in Beirut of a possible incursion.
For more information, please see:
Al Jazeera – Blast Hits Lebanese City of Tripoli – 29 September 2008
BBC – Analysis: Lebanon-Syria Attacks Linked? – 29 September 2008
New York Times – 4 Soldiers Killed in Lebanon Bombing – 29 September 2008
Reuters – Car Bomb Hits Bus Carrying Troops in Lebanon, 5 Dead – 29 September 2008
The Times – Six Dead and Seventeen Injured in Tripoli Car Bombing – 29 September 2008