Font Size

- Aa +

Wed 12 Dec 2007 10:47 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

Blast rocks Beirut, at least four dead

UPDATE: Army general among at least four people killed in a roadside bomb on outskirts of capital.

An army general was among at least four people killed on Wednesday in a roadside bomb that also injured seven others in a Christian suburb on the outskirts of Beirut, a security source told newswire AFP.

"General Francois El Hajj was killed in the blast and several other people were injured, including his driver," the source, who did not wish to be identified said.

According to several other sources, Hajj was tipped to replace the army's top commander General Michel Sleiman, who is the frontrunner to become Lebanon's next president.

Earlier a Lebanese Red Cross official told AFP that four people were killed and seven were wounded in the morning rush hour blast that rocked the suburb of Baabda, southeast of Beirut.

An AFP correspondant at the scene said the blast took place outside the Baabda municipal building, causing severe damage to the face of the structure and destroying several cars parked nearby.

Ambulances rushed to the site to evacuate the casualties and firefighters extinguished cars set ablaze. Police and army vehicles cordoned off the area.

An European ambassador living in the neighbourhood told AFP that the "very powerful" blast came during the rush hour when traffic was heavy.

Many Arab and Western embassies are in Baabda, home of the presidential palace which has been vacant since November 23 when the incumbent Emile Lahoud ended his term and left as feuding politicians bickered over his successor.

Buildings within a 100-metre radius of the site of the explosion had their windows blown out and people rushed to the site looking for their loved ones.

"Let me through, let me through, I want to find my father," one woman cried out as police kept her at bay

The blast comes amid high tension in Lebanon which has been rocked by a number of political assassinations in the last two years that have killed several anti-Syrian MPs.

On Tuesday a parliament session to elect the army chief as Lebanon's president was postponed for the eighth time amid a tug-of-war between politicians and fears a vote could be delayed until March.

The standoff between pro- and anti-Syrian camps marks the country's worst political crisis since the end of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war and there has been fear that it could spill out into violence.

Lebanon has been without a president since Lahoud ended his term on November 23.

The ruling coalition and the opposition have agreed to give the post to General Sleiman, but they are bickering over how to amend the constitution to allow for his election and over the shape of a new cabinet.

The country has been on edge since the February 14, 2005, Beirut seafront bomb blast that killed former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, in an attack that was widely blamed on Syria and forced it to end three decades of military domination.

Damascus has denied any connection with the Hariri killing or any of the others since then.