5 killed by suicide bombers near border with Syria
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.