5 killed by sui­cide bombers near bor­der with Syria

San Francisco Chronicle - - WORLD -

BEIRUT — A se­ries of sui­cide bomb­ings and other at­tacks, in­clud­ing one out­side a church, rocked a mainly Chris­tian Le­banese vil­lage near the Syr­ian bor­der on Mon­day, killing five peo­ple and wound­ing nearly 30, of­fi­cials and wit­nesses said.

Four sui­cide bombers struck the vil­lage of Qaa early Mon­day, caus­ing the fatal­i­ties and wound­ing 15 peo­ple. That evening, as friends and fam­ily of the vic­tims gath­ered out­side a church, two men on a mo­tor­cy­cle threw a grenade be­fore blow­ing them­selves up, wound­ing an­other 13.

The un­prece­dented at­tacks trig­gered panic among vil­lage res­i­dents, who bar­ri­caded them­selves in­doors. The army is­sued a state­ment urg­ing peo­ple to avoid gath­er­ings and to co­op­er­ate with lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

Vi­o­lence from the Syr­ian civil war has spilled over the bor­der in the past, in­flam­ing Le­banon’s own po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sions and rais­ing con­cerns over the more than 1 mil­lion Syr­ian refugees there, who now make up a fifth of the tiny coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion.

No group has claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tacks, and the na­tion­al­i­ties of the at­tack­ers re­mained un­known.

A se­cu­rity of­fi­cial said the evening ex­plo­sions took place while fam­i­lies of those killed in the ear­lier bomb­ings were gath­er­ing to pre­pare for fu­ner­als. The of­fi­cial spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity. Le­banon’s of­fi­cial Na­tional News Agency said 13 peo­ple were wounded in the late night ex­plo­sions.

A wit­ness said the first four at­tack­ers raised sus­pi­cions when they passed through the vil­lage be­fore dawn. When civil­ian vil­lage guards called out to them, they threw a hand grenade. The wit­ness spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity for fear of ret­ri­bu­tion.

The town’s mayor, Bashir Matar, said res­i­dents be­gan gath­er­ing af­ter the first ex­plo­sion, and that the other bombers tar­geted the crowd, one af­ter the other.

Ge­orge Ki­tane, the head of paramedics at the Le­banese Red Cross, con­firmed the death toll and said the 15 wounded were taken to nearby hospi­tals.

Qaa and the nearby Ras Baal­bek are the only two vil­lages with a Chris­tian ma­jor­ity in the pre­dom­i­nantly Shi­ite Her­mel re­gion, where the Shi­ite Hezbol­lah group holds sway. The group has sent thou­sands of its fight­ers to Syria to bol­ster Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad’s forces against the pre­dom­i­nantly Sunni rebels try­ing to top­ple him.

Sunni ex­trem­ists have car­ried out sev­eral at­tacks in the bor­der area since Syria’s con­flict be­gan in March 2011.

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