- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 2, 2005

BEIRUT - A bomb tore through a shopping and residential center in the Christian heartland northeast of Beirut late Friday, injuring seven persons, including an American, police and witnesses said.

The explosion in the resort town of Broummana ? the fourth against an anti-Syrian target in the past two weeks - sparked a fire, shattered glass in several buildings, blew out store shutters and smashed several cars.

Lebanon has been in turmoil since the Feb. 14 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which the opposition blamed on Syria and its Lebanese allies.

It set off massive anti-Syrian demonstrations and demands that Damascus withdraw its army from Lebanon.

Anti-Syrian leaders have blamed Damascus and allied Lebanese security authorities for the spate of bombings they say are aimed at proving Syrian troops are needed to maintain security in Lebanon.

The pro-Syrian camp blames saboteurs for destabilizing the country in order to invite international intervention.

Police and troops sealed off the area of Friday’s blast as rescuers helped some residents overcome by the smoke and shock. Officials said none of the seven injured had serious wounds. Several other people were treated at the scene and released.

Among the injured was a child, an elderly man, a woman and American David Livingstone, a journalist with Beirut’s Daily Star newspaper.

“There’s a sudden explosion. We go flying forward. Lights go out. Complete pandemonium,” Mr. Livingstone said on Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. television from his hospital bed, his head wrapped in a bandage.

Police said the bomb was placed in an underground parking lot at the center. Police estimated 44 pounds of explosive were used.

The explosion at the posh complex — sparsely populated during the winter — followed three other blasts.

The first, on March 19, ripped through the commercial and residential neighborhood of New Jdeideh. Four days later, another bomb wrecked a shopping center in the port city of Jounieh and March 26, a bomb set fire to factories in an industrial zone in the Beirut suburb of Bouchrieh.

In all, two persons were killed and 24 injured. All explosions happened late at night and caused immense destruction but claimed few casualties.

From Damascus, Reuters news agency reported that Syria will announce a timetable for the withdrawal of its remaining forces from Lebanon today, quoting a Syrian official source.

“The date and timetable will be announced tomorrow, Sunday, after it is given to U.N. envoy Terje Roed-Larsen,” said the source, who asked not to be named.

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara and Mr. Roed-Larsen will hold a joint press conference at 11:30 a.m. today after the U.N. envoy’s meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The source, Reuters reported, also said that a Lebanese-Syrian military committee had met in Beirut and Damascus in the past few days to agree on the timetable.

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