A powerful explosion has rocked downtown Beirut Friday, according to the Washington Post, shattering windows and killing at least five people.
It has been confirmed that former Lebanese minister Mohammed Shattah, adviser to former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and a staunch critic of Iranian-backed Hezbollah, was killed in the blast. Hariri and 21 others were killed in a car bomb attack in Beirut in February 2005; the attack was blamed on Hezbollah, and pushed sectarian tensions in the country to the brink.
The Guardian notes that Shattah, 62, is the second senior opposition figure to have been killed in the past 14 months. Figures linked to the Hariris have a history of being killed off over at least nine years, the news agency said.
The explosion was heard at about 9:40 a.m. emanating from just behind the Four Seasons hotel in the Lebanese capital. USA Today notes that the site was just a few hundred yards from important government and parliamentary buildings.
Reports now indicate that the explosion was from a car bomb. The engine of the car carrying the bomb was flung about 50 meters, according to the Wall Street Journal. Black smoke could be seen billowing from the area.
Ambulances rushed to the scene, according to the Lebanese Daily Star. Victims were taken to the American University Hospital, sources say, as national TV footage showed debris littering the ground, injured pedestrians, and a car on fire.
At least 5 people have been confirmed dead, with 15 injured; local media reports describe dead bodies littering the bomb site. The Lebanese Health Ministry has reportedly raised the number of injured to as high as 70, according to the Los Angeles Times.
No terror group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. However, Lebanese media outlet Al-Mayadeen, which is close to Hezbollah, reported that Shattah was the target of the attack.
In addition, several news outlets have pointed out that the attack comes just hours after Shattah posted and anti-Hezbollah tweet. Shattah was outspoken against the terror group, and its influence on the Lebanese government, reports say.
In November, a suicide bombing at the Iranian embassy in the capital left 25 dead and over 140 injured.
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which is linked to Al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for that attack.The group, which in the past has claimed responsibility for rocket fire on Israel, has threatened more attacks in Lebanon if Iran did not end its involvement in the Syrian civil war.