TRIPOLI, September 29 – At least six people were killed on Monday in a blast targeting a military bus on the outskirts of the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli, a security official told AFP.,
"We have at least six people killed, three of them soldiers," the official said. "We have about 30 other people injured."
He said the bomb went off at the southern entrance of the restive city as the mini-bus was heading towards the capital Beirut during morning rush-hour. There were about 24 passengers on board.
Police and the army immediately cordoned off the area as forensic experts began gathering evidence.
Residents rushed to the scene or to hospitals in the area to look for their loved ones.
One man in his 50s wept and appealed for news about his son who he said was on board the bus.
The force of the blast shattered windows and damaged cars nearby.
Police suspect the bomb was placed in a car and was detonated by remote control.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
A similar explosion in August left 14 people dead, nine of them soldiers, in the deadliest attack in the troubled country in three years.
That attack was also the worst involving the army since a 15-week battle last year with the Al-Qaeda inspired Fatah al-Islam militia in a Palestinian refugee camp near Tripoli that left 400 people dead, including 168 soldiers.
The August bombing came just hours before President Michel Sleiman began a landmark visit to Syria and the day after Lebanon’s new national unity cabinet won parliamentary approval.
Tripoli has been rocked by deadly sectarian violence in recent months.
In June and July, 23 people were killed in battles between Sunni Muslim supporters of Siniora and their Damascus-backed rivals from the Alawite community.
The fighting focused on the Sunni stronghold of Bab al-Tebbaneh and the mainly Alawite Jabal Mohsen district which are both a short distance from Masarif Street.
There has been tension between the two communities ever since Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war. Alawites are an offshoot of Shiite Islam and straddle the border into Syria whose President Bashar al-Assad is a follower of the faith.
Monday’s explosion came as Lebanon’s rival factions have been working toward resolving their differences following a long-running political crisis that brought the country to the brink of civil war in May.
It also took place amid heightened tensions in the region following a weekend bombing which left 17 people dead in the capital of neighbouring Syria, Lebanon’s former powerbroker.
The official news agency SANA said the attack was the result of a suicide attack by a "terrorist" with links to an Islamist extremist group.
"A preliminary inquiry has shown that the car which exploded Saturday came across a border post and that the terrorist driving it blew himself up with the vehicle," the agency said.