Military court magistrate Jean Fahd said Monday night's bomb in Zalka was of similar weight - 20kg to 30kg of TNT - to the earlier ones. It had been planted in a commercial area.

"The aim of all these explosions appears to be to sow fear and terror in the hearts of citizens and cause as much material damage as possible to destabilise security and harm the tourist season," Fahd said on Tuesday.

President Emile Lahoud and Prime Minister Fuad Saniora issued statements condemning the blast, with Saniora saying the government would "spare no effort to arrest the criminals responsible for these ugly crimes".

In his statement, Saniora also pledged to "rebuild the security agencies" to avoid similar attacks.

The country's security apparatus has been widely criticised for failing to stop the series of bombings in Lebanon this year, with some politicians accusing it of involvement.

Nobody has been arrested in connection with any of the bomb blasts that have occurred in Lebanon recently, a fact that has increased pressure on the security agencies.

Political squabbling

 

The bomb was placed between a
shopping centre and a hotel

Earlier this year, a previous government fired several security chiefs, but they have not been replaced owing to political squabbling over the appointments.

The most devastating of the bomb attacks was that of 14 February which assassinated former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and 20 others.

A UN-mandated team is investigating the assassination.

Its head, German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, is expected to report to the UN Security Council next month and ask for more time to complete his work.

Lebanese people are eagerly awaiting the results of the UN investigation, which they hope will put an end to further attacks.

Many believe the bombings are related to tension between those who support a Syrian role in Lebanese affairs and those who oppose it.

Syria was accused of being behind the bombings, but has denied any involvement in the al-Hariri assassination and subsequent bombings.

Considerable damage

"The aim of all these explosions appears to be to sow fear and terror in the hearts of citizens and cause as much material damage as possible to destabilise security and harm the tourist season"

Jean Fahd,
Military court magistrate

Monday night's bomb had been placed between a shopping centre and a hotel where tourists were staying.

It blew off the shutters of shops and smashed the windows of the hotel lobby.

Officials said the wounded suffered minor injuries, caused mostly by flying debris and broken glass. They were treated briefly in hospital.

Workers spent Tuesday morning sweeping up shattered glass and collecting clothes, shoes and mannequins scattered by the force of the explosion.

At the Promenade Hotel, workers cleared the lobby of shards of glass, strips of aluminium and other debris.

In the previous explosion, 12 people were wounded by a bomb that exploded near a restaurant in a Christian area of Monot Street in Beirut on 22 July.