The explosion late Friday in Broummana, a posh mountain resort overlooking Beirut and the Mediterranean coastline, is the fourth in about two weeks to hit a pre-dominantly Christian area of Lebanon.

Residents reported hearing an explosion at about 9.45pm (1845GMT), targeting the Rizk Plaza, which has clothing stores on the ground floor and furnished apartments above.

Ambulances with their sirens wailing rushed to the scene.

The explosion started a fire, shattered glass in nearby buildings, blew out shutters of stores, smashed cars and knocked down a light pole. Firefighters evacuated residents of the building as they put put the blaze.

There was no immediate word from police on the cause of the explosion.

Radio and television stations reported that a bomb was placed in the parking lot of the centre, which is on the main stretch of the resort town in the pinewooded mountains.

Fourth explosion

Broummana, about 15km northeast of the capital, is lightly populated in winter but crowded in the summer with Arab and other tourists.

The explosion was the fourth since March 19, when an explosion ripped through a commercial and residential neighborhood of New Jdeideh.

Four days later, another bomb wrecked a shopping center in the picturesque port city of Jounieh north of Beirut. Last Saturday, a bomb set fires to factories in an industrial zone in the Beirut suburb of Bouchrieh.

In all, two people were killed and 14 were injured.