BEIRUT: A huge car bomb exploded in central Beirut during rush hour on Friday, killing eight people, wounding about 80 and raising fears of renewed sectarian violence in a country still scarred from a long civil war.
The explosion did not appear to target any political figure in Lebanon's divided community but it occurred at a time of heightened tension between Lebanese factions on opposite sides of the conflict in neighbouring Syria. It ripped through the street where the office of the anti-Damascus Christian Phalange Party is located near Sassine Square in Ashrafiyeh, a mostly Christian area. Phalange leader Sami al-Gemayel, a staunch opponent of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and a member of parliament, condemned the attack. "Let the state protect the citizens. We will not accept any procrastination in this matter, we cannot continue like that. We have been warning for a year. Enough," said Gemayel, whose brother was assassinated in November 2006. The war in Syria, which has killed 30,000 people in the past 19 months, has pitted mostly Sunni insurgents against Assad, who is from the Alawite sect linked to Shi'ite Islam.