Lebanon 'suicide bomber' strikes southern Beirut

Footage from the scene shows crowds and emergency services gathered around the charred wreck of the bus

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A suicide bomber has blown himself up in a southern district of the Lebanese capital Beirut wounding several people, officials say.

The interior minister said the bomber detonated explosives in a minibus during rush hour in Choueifat district.

The area is home to a largely Christian and Druze population.

There has been a spate of bomb attacks in Beirut in recent weeks largely blamed on the rise of sectarian tension over the conflict in Syria.

"A man wearing an explosive belt boarded a public minibus in Choueifat and blew himself up," Interior Minister Marwan Charbel told Lebanon's Mayadeen television channel.

He said at least one person had been killed in the blast, but it was unclear if that was in addition to the suicide bomber.

Ayad Monzer of the Lebanese Red Cross said at least two people, a man and a women, were wounded in the blast.

Lebanese TV has aired footage from the scene of the blast showing the wrecked chassis of a roofless vehicle surrounded by onlookers.

People gather at the site of an explosion in Choueifat, south of the capital, on 3 February 2014. Choueifat is an industrial area with hundreds of small factories and businesses
Lebanese emergency personnel inspect the wreckage of a minibus at the site of an explosion on 3 February 2014 in Choueifat, south of the capital Beirut. Emergency officials have started to investigate the charred, mangled wreckage of the minibus
Lebanese police forensic experts inspect the wreckage of a minibus at the site of an explosion on 3 February 2014 in Choueifat, south of the capital Beirut. Recent attacks have targeted Hezbollah but many of the victims have been civilians

The army has reportedly set up a security cordon around the blast site and started to investigate the circumstances of the attack.

The target of the attack was not immediately clear. Hezbollah has a significant presence in the area and in adjacent Shia areas in the southern suburbs of Beirut.

One bystander told Reuters news agency the minibus had been heading in the direction of these areas when the explosives detonated.

It comes one day after three people were killed in another car bomb attack in Hermel, a Hezbollah stronghold near Lebanon's northern border with Syria.

Sectarian tensions in Lebanon have been stoked by Hezbollah's support for the government forces in Syria, with dozens of people killed in a series of car bombings in Beirut and Tripoli in recent months.

Both Sunni and Shia militants have been blamed for recent attacks.

Lebanon has also been politically deadlocked since last March with an alliance led by Sunni former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Hezbollah unable to agree on a coalition government.

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