The peacekeepers were patrolling the main road between the towns of Marjayoun and Khiam, a few kilometres north of the Israeli town of Metulla, when the bomb struck their armoured personnel carrier.

 

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The statement said the bombing was "an attack on Lebanon's security and stability and posed a challenge to the international community, which is standing on Lebanon's side."

 

Ghazi al-Aridi, the information minister, told reporters after the meeting that Lebanon needed international support to prevent the country from imploding.

 

"We call on all the international community to help Lebanon because it is not permissible for Lebanon to be left alone," he said.

 

"The collapse of this situation in Lebanon will lead to a collapse of the situation in all states in the region."

Rula Amin, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Lebanon, said some Lebanese  politicians have also suggested Syrian involvement in the attack on the peacekeepers.

 

"These are Lebanese government allegations saying arms are still being smuggled from Syria to groups in Lebanon – in particular, Palestinian groups," she said.

 

The Lebanese public was concerned about the Unifil attack, Amin said.

 

"If the attack was indeed the work of al-Qaeda inspired militants, are the targets going to be confined to Unifil or will there be civilian targets as well? Will the attacks be in the south or will they extend to the capital?"

 

Condemnations

 

There has been international outcry over the attack. Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general condemned the "terrorist attack" that killed the peacekeepers, his press office said on Monday.

 

"The Secretary General is deeply saddened by and condemns in the  strongest possible terms the terrorist attack on a United Nations  patrol in South Lebanon yesterday that killed six and injured two other United Nations peacekeepers belonging to the Spanish and Colombian armies," it said in a statement.

 

General Claudio Graziano, The Unifil commander, called the attack the "most serious incident" since the end of the Hezbollah-Israel war, saying "the perpetrators not only targeted Unifil but peace and security in the area."

 

Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shia opposition group, condemned the blast, saying on its al-Manar television channel: "The attack hurts the people of the south and of Lebanon."
 

Lebanese politicians also joined in the condemnation of the bombing, which Saad al-Hariri, the leader of the ruling coalition government, described as "a grave terrorist attack".

 

Fouad Siniora, the prime minister, called his Spanish counterpart to denounce the bombing.

 

Suspicion

 
Al-Aridi said Fatah al-Islam, whose fighters are under siege at a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon, was under suspicion for the attack.
 
"There is a link between the attack which targeted the Spanish contingent of Unifil and the combat between the Lebanese army and the terrorists of Fatah al-Islam in Nahr al-Bared [refugee camp]," al-Aridi said.

 

Spain has 1,100 peacekeepers deployed
in Lebanon [EPA]

 

Fighters from Fatah al-Islam have threatened in recent weeks to hit targets from Unifil, who they allege have taken part in military operations against them at the Nahr al-Bared camp.
 
Unifil denies launching any military operations on the camp near Tripoli.

Earlier on Monday, Jose Antonio Alonso, Spain's defence minister, arrived in southern Lebanon to collect the bodies of the six UN peacekeepers, as the UN commander stressed that the force remained committed to keeping the peace between Lebanon and Israel.

 

Spain has 1,100 peacekeepers in Lebanon, part of the 13,000-member UN Interim Force in Lebanon from 30 countries, which was first deployed in Lebanon in 1978 and was reinforced last year.

 

Unifil, along with 15,000 Lebanese troops, patrols a zone along the Lebanese-Israeli border that has been largely quiet after the war last summer with Israel that killed more than 1,200 people, most of them in Lebanon.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies