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Bomb Explodes in East Lebanon as Suspected Militants Nabbed

June 20 (Bloomberg) -- A suicide bomber blew his car up at a police checkpoint in east Lebanon in an attack that coincided with the arrest of 12 suspected militants in a raid on a Beirut hotel.

One person was killed and 32 people were injured in today’s car bombing in Dahr al-Baidar, east Lebanon, the official National News Agency said, revising an earlier death toll of two. The car was rigged with 25 to 30 kilograms of explosives, Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr said in televised remarks.

Major General Abbas Ibrahim, head of Lebanon’s General Security Directorate, said the renewed violence after a lull of more than two months was “without doubt” linked to the conflict in Iraq. Sunni extremists from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant are fighting with Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government after taking over several Iraqi cities last week.

Ibrahim told OTV he was a few meters from the checkpoint when the car exploded. He said police stopped the bomber at the checkpoint after receiving reports he was driving back and forth on the road the general usually takes.

Following the blast, U.S. Ambassador David Hale canceled a meeting with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil at the Foreign Ministry for security reasons, NNA said.

Road Closures

Lebanese authorities closed the road leading to the country’s only civilian airport in Beirut as well as streets around the home of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and some ministries, embassies and army barracks, NNA said.

The blast occurred as security forces arrested 30 people in Beirut’s busy Hamra neighborhood, including at a hotel there, according to NNA. It said the suspects held Arab passports and were planning to carry out a “huge terrorist” attack at a function this morning that Berri, a Shiite Muslim, had been scheduled to attend. The meeting was canceled.

The blast is the latest in a string of bombings that have rocked Lebanon since the Shiite militant Hezbollah group announced last year it was fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s government to crush a three-year insurgency in Syria.

Most of the bombings have been against Hezbollah targets and claimed by al-Qaeda-linked groups, including al-Nusra Front that is fighting in Syria.

To contact the reporter on this story: Donna Abu-Nasr in Beirut at dabunasr@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net Caroline Alexander, Andrew Atkinson

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