Lebanon: Beirut hotel bomber is Saudi citizen
BEIRUT (AP) — A suicide bomber who blew himself up at a Beirut hotel and his accomplice, who survived the blast, are citizens of Saudi Arabia, Lebanese officials said Thursday.
The bomber detonated his explosives at Beirut’s Duroy Hotel during a security raid on Wednesday evening, and died in the blast. Another man was wounded and was being questioned by security agents at a Beirut hospital.
A security and a judicial official told The Associated Press that a preliminary probe shows the two attackers entered Lebanon with Saudi passports on June 11, and had paid for bookings in two other hotels besides the Duroy.
The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to talk to the media during an ongoing investigation. Security forces are pursuing other suspects and on Thursday, special forces in bullet-proof vests and accompanied by police dogs raided at least one hotel in Beirut.
The blast toward the end of Wednesday evening rush-hour took place inside the Duroy Hotel, located near the Saudi Embassy in Raouche district, a posh neighborhood of apartment towers and upscale hotels perched on cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
The Saudi embassy condemned the blast in a statement Thursday, calling it a “terror act.”
The Lebanese Red Cross said 11 other people were wounded in the hotel explosion.
It was the third suicide bombing in Lebanon in less than a week and sparked fears of renewed violence in a country that has been deeply affected by the civil war in neighboring Syria.
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 troops.
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.
Regional tensions are also mounting over the events unfolding in Iraq, where Sunni insurgents — including the al-Qaida breakaway Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — have seized much of the country’s north as armed forces loyal to the Shiite-led government have melted away.
The 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.
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 sleeper cells, has given rise to concerns that Lebanon could see a new wave of violence linked to the Syrian conflict.