Suicide bomber kills policeman at East Lebanon checkpoint

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Security forces secure the site of a suicide blast in East Lebanon on June 20, 2014. (Photo: Marwan Bou Haidar)

Published Friday, June 20, 2014

Updated 7:24 pm: A suicide bomber blew himself up at a police checkpoint in eastern Lebanon Friday, killing one policeman and injuring over 30 people.

The target of the attack may have been General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim who told media that the bomb was detonated several minutes after his vehicle convoy had passed. He was not injured in the attack.

The blast took place in the town of Dahr al-Baidar, about 35 kilometers east of Beirut, on a road that connects the Lebanese capital to Damascus.

Head of the Internal Security Forces (ISF) Ibrahim Basbous said the suicide bomber detonated his vehicle as policeman Mahmoud Jamal ad-Din was searching it, killing him instantly.

"The driver was travelling towards the direction of Beirut through the town of Sawfar. He was stopped at a police checkpoint, and detonated his vehicle while two members of the ISF were searching it," Basbous told reporters at the scene.

Basbous said six other ISF officers, two army soldiers and 23 civilians were injured in the attack. The health ministry put the casualty toll at one dead and 32 injured.

Military Judge Sakr Sakr told reporters at the site of the blast that a suicide bomber appeared to be behind the attack.

Later in the day the army circulated a photo of an individual that security sources told Al-Akhbar they believed to be the suicide bomber.

Photo of the alleged suicide bomber

The army is asking anyone who recognizes the man in the image to come forward with information over his identity.

Sakr said it was too early to confirm whether or not Abbas Ibrahim was the target of the blast. He added that the bomb weighed approximately 25-30 kilograms.

Prime Minister Tammam Salam reportedly said he was happy with how security forces responded to the attack, lauding them for preventing the suicide bomber from escaping the checkpoint.

His remarks were made during a security meeting at his downtown Beirut headquarters, according to Major General Mohammed Kheir who gave a press conference after the meeting.

The attack took place as security forces on Friday arrested more than a dozen terror suspects in a Beirut hotel raid.

It was unclear if the two events were related.

Hezbollah, which had been the target of some previous attacks by jihadist forces, called on security forces to boost security measures.

"The arm of terrorism has reached out again to Lebanon, its security institutions, and its safe and secure people," the group said in a statement.

"The terrorist suicide blast ... targets Lebanon, its security and stability, and exposes the security of citizens to all kinds of dangers and threats," it added.

Suicide bombers affiliated with jihadist groups fighting in Syria have targeted a number of security checkpoints in Lebanon in recent months.

The last blast of its kind took place on March 29 in the Syrian border town of Ersal, killing three army soldiers and injuring four others.

Lebanon witnessed a spate of suicide and car bombings over the past year claimed by al-Qaeda affiliated groups active in Syria.

Most of the attacks targeted areas viewed as sympathetic towards Hezbollah in Beirut's southern suburbs and the eastern Bekaa valley.

But a major offensive in March launched by the Syrian army and Hezbollah against rebel forces in the border Qalamoun mountain range largely put an end to such attacks.

Many of the car bombs that had been used in the attacks on Lebanon were believed to have been rigged in the Syrian city of Yabrud, which was captured by Syrian forces in mid-March.



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