A top security official is reported to be among the eight people killed after a car bomb blast in Beirut. World leaders have condemned the attack.
Eight people were killed, including Lebanon's top security official, when the bomb exploded on Friday afternoon in a mainly Christian area of Beirut.
The midafternoon blast, from a car parked just off a main square in the city's Ashrafiyeh district, also left some 80 people injured.
Security forces and ambulances rushed to the scene of the explosion, 200 meters (656 feet) from the headquarters of a Christian party, the Phalange, an organization staunchly critical of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
State prosecutor Hatem Madi said the vehicle had been "blown off dozens of meters" from where it was parked. No one had so far claimed responsibility for the bombing when Madi spoke on Friday evening.
Among the dead was the intelligence chief of Lebanon's internal security services, General Wissam Hassan, who led the investigation that implicated Syria and Hezbollah in a 2005 bomb attack that the killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
The explosion occurred as pupils were leaving schools and bank employees were on their way home. Cars and homes were left ablaze, with balconies torn from the front of buildings.
There was condemnation for the attack from Syrian Information Minister Omran Zohbi. "These sort of terrorist, cowardly attacks are unjustifiable wherever they occur."
The UN Security Council condemned Friday's bombing and encouraged stability in the region.
"The members of the Security Council reiterated their unequivocal condemnation of any attempt to destabilize Lebanon through political assassinations and demanded an immediate end to the use of intimidation and violence against political figures," it said.
The White House also condemned the bombing, referring to it as a terrorist attack. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said there is "no justification for using assassination as a political tool."
Lebanon's opposition responded to the bomb attack by calling for the government's resignation.
"The government must leave and we call on Prime Minister Najib Mikati to resign immediately," said Ahmad al-Hariri, secretary-general of the Future movement.
The country's last deadly bombing, in 2008, resulted in the death of Lebanon's top anti-terrorism investigator, Wissam Eid.
Lebanon's political scene has been split by the civil war in neighboring Syria, which began in March last year, with parties dividing into factions that either oppose or support Assad. The schism has also led to deadly sectarian violence, particularly in the northern city of Tripoli.
rc,tm/ccp (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)