The bombing in Beirut on Friday afternoon was reminiscent of scenes from Lebanon’s civil wars from 1975-1990, as an explosive-bearing car shattered a street near Sassine Square in Ashrafiyeh, an affluent and predominantly Christian suburb.
While bombings were a trademark during the civil wars, the last attack of such kind occurred in 2008.
Among the eight casualties was senior Lebanese intelligence official Wissam al-Hassan, who, according to head of Lebanese security forces Samir Geagea, was targeted as he stood in the way of former Lebanese Information Minister Michel Samaha, a pro-Syrian Lebanese figure who was arrested in August and was accused of plotting a terrorist attack in the north of the country on behalf of the Syrian regime.
“We’re all being targeted. Four or five months ago, I was a target. Boutros Harb was targeted afterwards. Today, it was Wissam al-Hassan. Tomorrow, they might target someone else,” Geagea said. “They will keep trying and this scenario will continue. Why Wissam al-Hassan? Because he stopped Michel Smaha and because he was possibly the one responsible or among those security officials who follow things to the end and uncover some of the plots that take place,” he said.
Several cars were set ablaze by the explosion and the front of a multi-story building was badly damaged. Rubble and the twisted, burning wreckage of the cars filled the explosion site in central Beirut, ripping the facades and balconies off buildings. Shattered glass covered the streets and shards from the stores which caused numerous injuries.
Firefighters scrambled through the debris and rescue workers carried off the bloodied victims on stretchers. Residents ran about in panic looking for relatives while others helped carry the wounded to ambulances.
“It is a powerful blow for the state, for the Lebanese people as whole; a powerful security blow for the current government. If it still has any feeling of nationalism, sovereignty and the security of the country, the government needs to see what can do,” Geagea said.
Beirut has undergone massive reconstruction to repair the war damage and has enjoyed a tourist boom in recent years. However, that source of revenue, crucial to Lebanon’s prosperity, is now under threat.