Bomb Explodes in Christian Port’s Main Square, Killing 10
JOUNIEH, Lebanon (AP) _ A car bomb exploded in the main square of this Christian port while it was packed with lunch-hour crowds Tuesday, killing at least 10 people and wounding 110.
The blue BMW sedan blew up only 50 yards from offices of President Amin Gemayel’s Phalange Party, set 25 cars ablaze and damaged buildings 500 yards away. It was the latest in a series of bombings in Christian areas since mid- January.
In south Lebanon, a suicide bomber drove an explosives-laden car into a checkpoint manned by Israeli-backed militiamen, killing himself and wounding six people, Lebanon’s state radio reported. It was the first suicide bombing reported this year in what Israel calls its security zone.
Radios reported 16 people were killed in the Chouf Mountain village of Bsaba, southeast of Beirut, in a clan feud between Sunni Moslems and Druse warriors from rival villages.
Prime Minister Rashid Karami, a Sunni Moslem opposed to the Maronite Catholic president, called the Jounieh bombing ″treacherous″ and declared: ″It’s always the innocent people who are the victims.″
Youssef Bitar, the top police explosives expert, said about 165 pounds of explosives were packed inside the sedan. It blew up at 1:05 p.m., the height of the lunch break.
Police said 10 charred bodies were pulled from the rubble of two high-rise office buildings that took the brunt of the blast. They house banks, beauty parlors, clinics and shopping precincts.
Water pipes were ripped open, flooding the glass-strewn square where rescuers dug through the rubble looking for survivors.
Jumpy Christian militiamen, fearing more bombs, fired bursts from automatic rifles and several rocket-propelled grenades into the air to clear paths for ambulances.
Christian radio stations broadcast lists of the casualties. Police say about 1,190 people have been killed and more than 2,500 wounded this year in Lebanon’s political and sectarian warfare.
Jounieh, 13 miles north of Beirut, is the main Christian outlet to the Mediterranean and generally has been spared during 11 years of civil war. Most bombings of Christian targets have been aimed at offices of Gemayel’s party in Christian east Beirut.
No one claimed responsibility for the Jounieh blast, as usual in bombings in Christian areas. The Phalange has blamed loyalists of Elie Hobeika, Gemayel’s main Christian rival, for earlier bomb attacks.
Syria supports Hobeika, whose militiamen were defeated by Gemayel’s forces in a day-long battle Jan. 15 that cost hundreds of lives.
At least 50 people were killed and more than 300 wounded by the earlier bombs. The most recent, in the Ashrafieh neighborhood of east Beirut, killed 10 and wounded 80.
According to the state radio report, the suicide bomber in south Lebanon detonated an estimated 220 pounds of explosives as South Lebanon Army militiamen searched cars at Kawkaba, about nine miles north of the Israeli border.
Three militiamen and three civilians were wounded, the radio said.
It was the first suicide bombing reported in the Israeli security zone this year. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Syrian-backed leftists and Moslem extremists made 14 similar attacks in the zone last year, after Israel pulled out most of its occupation forces and established it in June.
The struggle for leadership of Lebanon’s 1.6 million Christians began when Gemayel rejected a Syrian-sponsored peace accord signed Dec. 28 by Hobeika and the two main Moslem militia leaders, Druse chieftain Walid Jumblatt and Nabih Berri, leader of the Shiite Moslem Amal militia.
Gemayel’s victory over Hobeika in January scuttled the agreement and incensed President Hafez Assad of Syria, who had engineered the pact in his role as Lebanon’s main power broker.
Jumblatt, Berri and other Syrian-backed militias are trying to oust Gemayel midway through his six-year term. A battle for Lebanon’s Christian heartland east and north of Beirut has killed more than 450 people so far and wounded at least 1,100.