Bomb kills Seven, Wounds 37 In Beirut Hospital
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ A nail-packed bomb hidden in a box of chocolates exploded in the crowded lobby of Beirut’s American University Hospital Saturday, killing seven people, including the woman who was carrying it.
Thirty-seven people were wounded.
The device contained about one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of TNT, a rifle grenade and dozens of nails, said Police Col. Mounir Maalouli. ″We found nails in the bodies of the victims,″ he said.
He quoted a Lebanese soldier wounded in the blast as saying a nervous- acting blonde was sitting in the lobby with the box of chocolates when ″the parcel exploded.″
The unidentified soldier said the woman ″was sitting on a chair opposite the accounts department, a few yards from the elevators . .. She looked nervous and was constantly watching the elevators. She had the chocolate parcel in her lap.″
Another police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said police did not yet know whether the woman knew what was inside ″or whether she detonated the bomb.″
In Washington, the State Department said there were no indications that Americans were among the victims. In a statement, it branded the bombing ″particularly despicable and utterly heartless″ because it brought ″terror into a place of healing.″
″The American University Hospital has served all the people of Lebanon with the highest standards of distinction and professionalism even as the city and country around it have been beset by chaotic violence and war,″ the statement said. ″We have no details on who did this or why.″
It was the second fatal bombing in Syrian-policed Moslem west Beirut in four days. Both bombs were carried by women.
A bomb hidden in a briefcase exploded Wednesday in the passenger terminal of the capital’s airport, killing six people and wounding 73. The woman who carried it was among those killed.
No one claimed responsibility for either blast.
Since Syrian troops were deployed in February to end three years of militia anarchy, more than 100 explosions have hit west Beirut.
Maalouli said Saturday’s bomb exploded at 11:15 a.m. near the elevators in the hospital’s main lobby, which was crowded with visitors. He said the dead included ″four men and three bodies damaged beyond recognition.″
The blast broke the lobby’s glass windows. Pools of blood, shoes and bags were strewn across the floor. Nurses rushed victims to emergency wards for treatment.
Radio stations broadcast urgent appeals for blood donations for the wounded.
Police gave no details about the blond woman’s identity but said an autopsy would be carried out on what remains of her body, which took the full force of the blast and was ″damaged beyond recognition.″
″I was in the lobby, some distance from the elevators, when I heard the boom. I woke up in the emergency room,″ said a man wounded in the neck, left shoulder and chest.
He refused to answer questions and walked out of the emergency department, despite his wounds.
Syrian and Lebanese soldiers and red-bereted riot police sealed off the hospital and stopped reporters and photographers from entering.
Women wailed in grief at a Lebanese army checkpoint that prevented them from going into the hospital grounds to seek word about relatives and friends.
″My sons are in there 3/8 I want to know about them 3/8,″ a woman begged a soldier.
″Go away, go away 3/8,″ the soldier shouted.
A doctor in the hospital, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no staff or patients were among the fatalities. He said ″two AUH employees, a technician and an administrative assistant,″ were wounded.
He said the other casualties were ″visitors and Lebanese soldiers in charge of security at the hospital.″
The hospital, which has handled thousands of casualties from Lebanon’s civil war, houses the medical school of the American University of Beirut, which was founded in 1866 by Protestant missionaries.
The hospital was founded in 1905 and a new, modern compound was added in 1970.
The doctor said no Americans now work in the 420-bed hospital, which had been headed by an American with a large staff of American doctors, nurses and specialists.
David Jacobsen of Huntington Beach, Calif., was the hospital’s last American director. He was kidnapped in west Beirut by Shiite Moslem extremists on May 28, 1985 and released Nov. 2, 1986 after 18 months in captivity.
Most Americans fled west Beirut last year after a wave of kidnappings that targeted U.S. citizens and other Westerners.
The Associated Press’ chief Middle East correspondent, Terry Anderson, was abducted on March 16, 1985, and is the longest-held foreign captive.
Syrian troops, deployed in west Beirut since Feb. 22, threw up checkpoints outside the two other major hospitals in the city’s Moslem sector after Saturday’s bombing.
They frisked visitors and staff at the Barbir and Makassed hospitals and stopped visitors taking in gifts to patients, witnesses said.