Two attackers activated their bomb vests during rush hour in a densely populated quarter of the Lebanese capital, killing dozens of people, officials said. The area is a known stronghold of the Shiite Hezbollah militia.
The explosions happened just minutes apart in front of the Burj al-Barajneh shopping center, police said Thursday.
At least 37 people died in attack, according to Lebanon Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk. A third suspect had been killed by one of the explosions before activating his explosive charge, Machnouk added.
There were also over 180 people wounded, according to the Lebanese Red Cross. Dozens of them are reportedly in critical condition.
Hospitals in southern Beirut called on people to donate blood.
Breaking the calm
The southern suburbs of Beirut are a bastion of Hezbollah, a Shiite armed group active in Syria and other conflict areas.
Residents of the area said they rushed to the scene after the first explosion, and then the second one went off.
“We felt it was like an earthquake,” Beirut resident Hussein Harakeh told the DPA news agency.
Lebanese troops and Hezbollah security personnel urged people to clear the area out of fear of more attacks.
“After the second explosion, I thought the world was ending,” another witness told local media.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts. However, Sunni extremists have attacked the area several times in the past, citing retribution for Hezbollah militants fighting alongside government troops in Syria.
The Thursday bombing is the first such attack in Beirut’s southern suburbs since mid 2014.
dj/sms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)