Suicide bomber blows himself up in Beirut hotel

Fire engines work on extinguishing a fire after a suicide bomber blew himself up in his room at a Beirut hotel, Lebanon. Photo / AP
Fire engines work on extinguishing a fire after a suicide bomber blew himself up in his room at a Beirut hotel, Lebanon. Photo / AP

A suicide bomber blew himself up in his room at a Beirut hotel as Lebanese security forces raided the premises, sending flames and a dark cloud of black smoke billowing out of the third-floor windows, security officials said.

The explosion at the tail-end of evening rush-hour took place inside the Duroy Hotel in Beirut's Raouche district, a well-heeled neighborhood that borders the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanese troops sealed off the area around the hotel and armed gunmen fanned out on the street to secure the location.

The bombing is the latest in a string of attacks and security scares in Lebanon over the past week that have sparked fears of renewed violence in a country that has been deeply affected by the civil war in neighboring Syria.

"General security was conducting a raid and were able to arrest one suspect, while another blew himself up," Lebanon's military prosecutor, Saqr Saqr, told reporters at the scene.

"Three general security officers were wounded. An operation is underway at the hotel. Every room is being searched to see if there are more explosives."

A general security official said the raid was part of ongoing efforts to pursue suspected militants in Lebanon. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief journalists.

Moahamed Obeid, who works as a waiter at the hotel restaurant, said two SUVs carrying security agents arrived at the hotel just after a party began at 7:30 local time.

"People got suspicious and seconds later we heard a strong explosion," Obeid said, standing around 50 metres from the hotel. "Clients started running away, some to the kitchen and others through the back door."

He said one employee at the hotel was wounded.

Damage appeared to be confined to the third and fourth floors of the hotel. The explosion started a fire on the third floor, and thick black smoke billowed above the hotel as fire engines struggled to contain the blaze.

A string of security incidents over the past week has rattled Lebanon, and Beirut in particular, after what had been a calm and stable stretch of several months.

On Monday, a suicide bomber blew himself up near a checkpoint outside a cafe just after midnight in a primarily Shiite neighborhood where the militant Hezbollah group has a strong presence. The bombing killed one person and wounded 20.

An al-Qaida-linked group, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, has warned that such attacks will continue as long as Hezbollah takes part in Syria's civil war alongside President Bashar Assad's military.

Another bombing in eastern Lebanon last week killed a police officer and wounded several others.

The bombings, coupled with the detention last Friday in Beirut of people accused of being part of alleged Sunni extremist militant sleeper cells, has given rise to concerns that Lebanon could see a new wave of violence linked to the Syrian conflict.

Syria's civil war has spilled into neighboring Lebanon on numerous occasions and inflamed sectarian tensions. A series of car bombs have struck Shiite areas across Lebanon, killing dozens of people. The operation also came amid mounting regional tensions over the events unfolding in Iraq.

-AP

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