February 2, 2006

Blast near Lebanese army post

By Nadim Ladki

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A bomb exploded near a Lebanese army
barracks in Beirut early on Thursday, shortly after a purported
threat by al Qaeda to attack security installations in Lebanon.

Security sources said the night blast slightly wounded a
soldier, wrecked a car and blew out windows in nearby

They said a local newspaper had received a telephone call
from someone claiming to speak on behalf of al Qaeda and
declaring that a security target would be bombed in Beirut in
retaliation for the arrest last month of 13 group members.

The explosion occurred some three hours later at around 2
a.m. (midnight GMT) outside the Fakhreddine Barracks in the
Ramlet al-Baida district of the capital.

The sources earlier said the blast was caused by a car bomb
but they later said it had been caused by an explosive charge
near or under the car.

Al-Balad newspaper reported in its morning edition that it
had received a telephone call in which a man claiming to be al
Qaeda's representative in Lebanon gave the authorities two
weeks to release two women detainees.

"The caller threatened to launch three qualitative military
operations simultaneously and clash with the security forces if
the two women ... are not freed," al-Balad said in a report.

The women are the fiancee and her mother of an al Qaeda
member who was recently executed for killing three military
intelligence agents.

The paper also received a written statement from "The
International Islamic Front" denouncing the January arrests.


Lebanon has been rocked by more than a dozen explosions in
the past 12 months, the largest of which was a truck bomb that
killed former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and 22 others in
Beirut on February 14.

A U.N. inquiry has implicated senior Syrian security
officials and their Lebanese allies in the murder. Three
anti-Syrian politicians and journalists have been killed and
two people wounded since in separate smaller explosions.

The Progressive Socialist Party of anti-Syrian Druze leader
Walid Jumblatt said Syria was behind the latest attack.

"The targeting of an army barracks is a new stop in the
terrorist series by the Syrian regime in Lebanon," the party
said in a statement. "It is seeking to transfer al Qaeda's
sabotage tools to Lebanon after backing it for months in Iraq."

The Lebanese authorities said last month they had arrested
13 members of al Qaeda and sources say they had been setting up
a network for the group in the country.

The group had been believed to have recruited Lebanese and
Palestinian refugees to fight U.S.-led forces in Iraq under the
leadership of Abu Moussab al-Zarqawi, the sources said. But in
recent months there have been indications that the group was
stepping up its activities in Lebanon.

Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for a Katyusha rocket
attack against northern Israel from south Lebanon in late
December. Although Lebanese security sources believe pro-Syrian
Palestinian guerrillas were behind that attack, they say
Zarqawi's willingness to take credit for it showed he might
have an agenda in Lebanon.

The killing of Hariri sparked large anti-Syrian protests in
Beirut that forced Syria to end three decades of military
presence in Lebanon in April.

(Additional reporting by Laila Bassam)