Explosions in south Lebanon linked to alcohol sale

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Lebanese police officers inspect the scene where a bomb exploded in the pub of the Queen Elissa Hotel, in the southern port city of Tyre, Wednesday Nov. 16, 2011. A senior Lebanese security official says a bomb has exploded at a hotel frequented by U.N. staffers in the country's south, causing damage but not casualties. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

Published Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Two loud explosions struck the south Lebanese port city of Tyre early Wednesday, with no casualties reported.

The first bomb went off around 4.55am and destroyed a ground floor restaurant at the Queen Elissa Hotel, with the second inflicting damage at a nearby liquor store only minutes later.

Timur Goksel, former spokesman and senior adviser to United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL), downplayed the attacks, saying they were not targeting UN troops in the region.

"I don't see this as a threat or attack on UNIFIL," Goksel told al-Akhbar.

Goksel added that the attacks seemed to be related to alcohol, and were probably carried out by rogue Salafists or fundamentalists opposed to the selling of alcohol.

Contrary to other reports, Goksel said the Queen Elissa Hotel was not frequented by UNIFIL personnel, and assumptions that the bombs targeted UNIFIL were "overstated."

"Very rarely do our [UN] people stay in town at night. We don't have people staying in hotels. It's a bit overdone," he said.

Interior Minister Marwan Charbel appeared to arrive at the same conclusion, telling Voice of Lebanon radio this morning that UNIFIL were not the target, but rather sellers of alcohol.

“What happened today in Tyre is not security-related but linked to the sale of alcohol,” Charbel said.

Despite the attacks, Goksel was not concerned for the security of Tyre or south Lebanon.

"In terms of law and order, Tyre is a remarkable place, the Lebanese Army is very present in the area. You could not have a better setup than in Tyre," the former UNIFIL spokesman said.

"It's a very controlled city, and friendly to foreigners."

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