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Deadly explosion hits Hezbollah stronghold in southern Beirut

A large blast has hit Lebanon's capital city Beirut, with reports of casualties. The southern part of the city is known as a stronghold of the Hezbollah militant group.

Lebanon's health minister Ali Hassan Khalil said at least five people were killed on Thursday and 66 injured when a car bomb was detonated in Shiite militant group Hezbollah's stronghold in southern Beirut.

Witnesses reported smoke rising into the sky from the scene on Thursday afternoon, while Hezbollah's Al-Manar television aired pictures of emergency vehicles arriving. The Shiite group's broadcaster also showed footage of bystanders working to put out fires in cars near a building which had a badly-damaged frontage.

"The terrorist explosion targeted a densely populated residential area, just 150-200 meters away from Hezbollah's political bureau," Al-Mansar said. It reported that the building was not thought to have been the target.

Lebanon has been hit by a series of bombings over the past few months amid severe sectarian tensions over Hezbollah's support for President Bashar al-Assad in neighboring Syria. The Iran-backed group has sent fighters to assist Assad in an almost three-year conflict with mainly Sunni rebels attempting to overthrow him.

In December, Mohammad Chatah, a former finance minister and Lebanon's envoy to Washington, was among those killed in another bomb attack. He was on his way to a meeting of Sunnis and Christians who oppose Hezbollah and the Syrian regime.

se, ccp/msh (dpa, Reuters, AFP, AP)

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