Car Bomb in Hezbollah Lebanese Stronghold Kills Four

A car bomb explosion in a Hezbollah stronghold in east Lebanon killed four people, state-run National News Agency said, the latest attack on the militant group since it joined Syria’s civil war.

Today’s blast struck close to an area of government offices and businesses and wounded at least 26 people, the agency said.

Interior Minister Marwan Charbel told Al-Manar TV, the station of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, that human remains near the car suggested the blast was triggered by a suicide bomber. He said the violence was meant to inflame sectarian divisions at a time when Lebanese leaders are discussing the formation of a new government.

Lebanon has been without a cabinet since March and rifts deepened by the crisis in neighboring Syria have prevented the formation of a new one. In recent weeks, rival politicians have appeared closer to agreeing on a government and Lebanese media has suggested a coalition could be formed soon.

The Lebanese army arrested Jamal Daftardar, a commander in the al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades, in the eastern Bekaa Valley yesterday. The Sunni Muslim group had claimed responsibility for the November bombing of the Iranian Embassy in Beirut and has vowed more attacks on Iranian interests and Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim group.

The brigades’ leader, Majed al-Majed, died recently from a chronic illness after being arrested by the Lebanese army.

A Wedge

Today’s blast comes as a response to al-Majed’s arrest and his likely successor, Jamal Daftardar, said Hilal Khashan, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut.

“The attack was carried out against a soft target and the aim is to draw a wedge between Hezbollah and its constituency,” Khashan added, in an e-mailed response to questions.

The bomb was triggered about an hour before the start of the trial of four Hezbollah suspects in the 2005 killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, a Sunni Muslim. They haven’t been arrested and are being tried in absentia.

Hezbollah has been targeted multiple times since it disclosed in July that its fighters had joined the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad in battling rebels seeking to overthrow him. A Jan. 2 car bomb in another Hezbollah stronghold outside Beirut killed five people.

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