Lebanon security chief survives bomb attack

Suicide blast targeting security chief near a checkpoint on main highway between Beirut and Damascus kills two people.

Two people have been killed after a suicide bomber blew himself up at a Lebanese security checkpoint in the eastern Bekaa Valley, officials say.

Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin, reporting from area of the explosion said that Lebanese security chief Abbas Ibrahim was the target of the “assassination attempt”. Abbas was unharmed but at least one officer was killed and 20 others were injured in the explosion.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack.

The checkpoint is situated on the main highway joining Beirut and Damascus, in an area where Sunni Muslim armed groups are fighting to topple the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and have been targeting his key Lebanese ally, the Shia group Hezbollah.

Our correspondent said that the attack took place as authorities were on “high alert” following reports of a plot to target security posts in Lebanon.

Ibrahim said he passed through the checkpoint minutes before the bomber detonated his explosives belt, just 200 metres away from his convoy.

‘Miraculous escape’

“We miraculously escaped,” Ibrahim told Reuters, adding that many officials in Lebanon were being targeted by the reactivation of “terrorist sleeper cells”.

“But the security services are ready and on alert to stop them and we won’t become another Iraq,” he said in reference to the fighting between Shia and Sunni factions in Iraq, where Sunni armed groups have seized wide swathes of territory.

Ibrahim, a Shia who heads Lebanon’s Directorate of General Security (DGS), confirmed that security officials had information that Sunni fighters were aiming to assassinate him.

“We were suspicious of the (bomber’s) car when we were on our way and when the car stopped at the Dahr al-Baydar checkpoint, the explosion went off,” he said.

Security sources said the DGS had received intelligence that groups under the leadership of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, who are affiliated with al Qaeda, were planning to kill Ibrahim with a car bomb.

Lebanese police have begun rounding up people they suspect of links to al-Qaeda and other militant groups.

Earlier on Friday, Lebanese authorities arrested at least 17 “foreigners” allegedly linked to the plot.

Security forces raided at least one hotel in the Beirut’s bustling Hamra district over suspected “terrorist cells” inside it, a police official said.

They also detained a top commander linked to al-Qaeda on Thursday in another raid.

Lebanon has been on edge, bracing for renewed violence as a result of the surge by armed fighters in neighbouring Syria and also in Iraq.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies