Bomb Kills Seven Minutes After Hezbollah March Passes By
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ A car bomb exploded in south Beirut on Friday minutes after thousands of pro-Iranian Shiite Moslems marched by in a demonstration against their Syrian- backed rivals. Seven people were killed and 15 wounded, police said.
The blast occurred on the sixth day of fierce fighting between the mainstream Amal militia and the fundamentalist Hezbollah for control of south Lebanon’s Apple Province and the country’s 1 million Shiites.
The Mercedes-Benz blew up on Roweiss Street, a residential area in the Bir el-Abed district. It touched off several fires and blasted a crater in the street six feet deep and more than seven feet across.
The force of the explosion catapulted a flaming car onto a power pole.
″A tongue of flame pierced the sky when the deafening blast occurred. I was hurled a few yards off and then landed on my belly with glass raining on me,″ said Issam Jaber, interviewed in front of his tool shop.
At least 10 cars were destroyed. More than 16 buildings suffered considerable damage in a one-mile radius around the blast. At least nine shops were destroyed.
Broken power cables dangled on streets littered with glass shards and uprooted pine trees.
Police said the dead were civilians who lingered after thousands of Hezbollah protesters passed by minutes before. Some demonstrators carried placards and chanted slogans such as ″Death to America, the Great Satan 3/8″ and ″Death to Nabih Berri 3/8″
Berri heads Amal, which is backed by Syria.
″If it happened during the demonstration, it would have been a much greater disaster with plenty of more casualties,″ said a police spokesman, who cannot be named under standing regulations.
Hezbollah gunmen shot in the air to clear a path for ambulances. At one point they stopped a team of civil defense workers, beat five of them, blindfolded them and then dumped them into the trunk of a car and sped away.
″They are suspects,″ said one Hezbollah gunman, who refused to give his name.
Syrian troops in charge of security in Beirut’s Moslem sector watched but did not intervene.
A Hezbollah statement said none of the party leaders or partisans who took part in the demonstration was injured.
No one claimed responsibility for the blast.
Hezbollah militiamen claimed Berri was behind it, but an Amal statement disclaimed involvement, calling the blast ″an intolerable act of terrorism aimed at fanning the flames of dissension within the Shiite community.″
Hezbollah’s parade was called to protest what the party termed ″the murderous military adventure″ by Berri to evict Hezbollah from south Lebanon’s Apple Province.
Militiamen of the two factions battled Friday with mortars and machine guns in and around the Apple Province village of Jbaa, but none made territorial gains.
Police said two civilians were killed and another three wounded.
Jbaa is the key to a 9-square-mile enclave controlled by about 500 Hezbollah fighters. It extends south to the hamlets of Ein Bouswar and Louwaizeh and east to wooded Mount Safi.
Iran’s Parliament speaker, Hashemi Rafsanjani, called for an end to the fighting. Rafsanjani, speaking in Tehran, said Hezbollah and Amal ″are both committing murder, and the Islamic Republic is disgusted.″