Photographer: ANWAR AMRO/AFP/Getty Images

Blom Bank Was Target of Beirut Blast, Interior Minister Says

  • Two people wounded in Sunday’s blast from bomb in flower pot
  • Attack raises questions over link to Hezbollah financing law

Lebanon’s Blom Bank was the target of Sunday’s bombing attack in Beirut, the country’s interior minister said, raising questions about whether it was connected to a U.S. law targeting Hezbollah’s finances. The bank’s chairman said it was too soon to assign blame.

“The bomb was right by the bank’s wall, so there is no question about it,” Nouhad Al Mashnouq said in a telephone interview. While he stopped short of directly blaming the Iranian-backed militant group for the attack, he said he expects banks would “implement the law to the letter.”

Hezbollah is preparing a statement that will condemn the explosion, according to Assafir, a Beirut-based newspaper close to the Shiite group. Saad Azhari, Blom Bank’s chairman, cautioned against reaching “predetermined” conclusions, the state-run National News Agency reported.

The bank said in a statement operations would resume normally at all branches. Blom Bank’s shares were unchanged at $9.9 at 1:54 p.m. in Beirut.

The Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015 imposes sanctions on any banks doing business with the group. Lebanon central bank Governor Riad Salameh has said non-compliance could mean that lenders end up “isolated from the rest of the world.”

The Association of Banks in Lebanon condemned the attack, saying the sector complied with international and local regulations.

"Banks operate according to the norms set in the international markets and subject to Lebanese laws and Central Bank circulars to preserve the interests of the Lebanese," the association said in a statement issued after an emergency meeting.

Holding the majority of Lebanon’s ballooning public debt, banks are critical to the stability of the country’s economy.

The explosion was caused by a bomb weighing 15 kilograms (33 lbs) placed in a flower pot outside the back-door of the bank’s headquarters in Beirut, the state-run news agency reported, citing police chief Major General Ibrahim Basbous. Two people were wounded in the blast, it said.

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