- The Washington Times - Friday, March 18, 2005

BEIRUT (AP) — A car bomb rocked a predominantly Christian neighborhood in northern Beirut early today, destroying part of a building and wounding at least seven persons, police said.

The explosion left a seven-foot-deep crater in the roadway and shattered windows for several blocks in the New Jdeideh neighborhood.

The target of the attack was not immediately clear, but it came amid political turmoil in Lebanon in the wake of the Feb. 14 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the subsequent withdrawal of Syrian troops to east Lebanon and Syria.

Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese have been participating in demonstrations for and against Syria since Mr. Hariri was killed. Anti-Syrian opposition demonstrations have included large numbers of Maronite Christians.

At least seven persons were treated for injuries as ambulances and fire trucks converged on the scene.

Witnesses said the car attempted to stop in front of a bingo hall, but security guards asked its driver to move along. The driver then parked the car a short way down the road. Minutes later it exploded.

The bomb blew off the first and second story facades of a building. It also damaged parked cars and shops in the vicinity.

Shaken residents, many in their pajamas and nightgowns, came out into the street and stood outside the damaged building behind a police cordon.

“We were sleeping when it happened,” said a white-haired man, wearing blue pajamas, who declined to be identified. “We don’t know what and why. No one important lives here.” He said two of his children were injured by flying glass.

Bomb explosions had been rare since Lebanon’s civil war ended in 1990, but Mr. Hariri was killed in a massive explosion that ripped through his motorcade in downtown Beirut. It is still not known whether the blast, which killed a total of 18 persons, was caused by a car bomb or explosives planted under the road.

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