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Suicide Bombers Kill 5 in Esat Lebanon 06/27 06:55

   BEIRUT (AP) --- A group of suicide bombers detonated their explosives' vests 
in a northeastern Lebanese village near the border with Syria on Monday, 
killing five people and wounding at least 15, a Lebanese military official and 
paramedics said.

   The blasts occurred in the predominantly Christian village of Qaa, only few 
hundred meters (yards) away from the border. The state-run National News Agency 
said four suicide bombers were involved in the rare multiple attack. No group 
immediately claimed responsibility.

   The villagers became suspicious of the men as they were passing through the 
village around 4 am local time, an eyewitness in Qaa said. When civilian 
security men who guard the village called out to them, they threw a hand 
grenade before successively blowing themselves up among civilians.

   A Lebanese military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line 
with regulations, said one suicide attacker blew himself up in front of one of 
the homes, while three other attackers followed, detonating their suicide vests 
one after the other as people gathered in the area.

   Four members of the military were among the wounded, the official added. An 
investigation is underway.

   Qaa and the nearby Ras Baalbek are the only two villages with a Christian 
majority in the predominantly Shiite northeastern Hermel region, where the 
Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah group holds sway. The group has sent thousands of its 
fighters to Syria to fight on the side of Syrian President Bashar Assad's 
forces against predominantly Sunni rebels trying to topple him.

   The area along the Syria border has been struck by bombings claimed by Sunni 
extremists on several occasion since Syria's conflict began in March 2011, 
leading Christians of Qaa to set up self-defense units to protect against 
potential attack by Muslim extremists from neighboring Syria.

   Since mid-2014, the Lebanese army stepped up operations and patrols in the 
areas, leading to a drop in bombings and shelling targeting the area.

   Qaa's mayor, Bashir Matar, described in an interview with the Beirut-based 
pan Arab channel Al-Mayadeen how the fourth attacker was gunned down.

   Matar said it was unclear what had trigged the first explosion but once 
people started gathering, another explosion occurred followed by a third one.

   "As we were treating some of the wounded, I saw the fourth suicide attacker 
coming toward me. I shouted at him," Matar said. "We opened fire toward him and 
he blew up."

   Lebanon has in recent years faced deadly spillovers from the Syrian civil 
war next door, and Lebanese authorities have been on high alert, tightening 
security in recent days.

   George Kitane, the head of paramedics at the Lebanese Red Cross, confirmed 
the death toll and said the 15 wounded were rushed to hospitals in nearby 
areas. He added that several others were treated on the spot.

   One of the four explosions struck an ambulance for the village's 
archbishopric, killing its driver, residents said.

   The explosions occurred about 150 meters away from a Lebanese customs border 
point. The eyewitnesses spoke on condition of anonymity for fears for his 
safety.

   Lebanon's Al-Manar TV, which is owned by the militant group Hezbollah, said 
six people were killed and blamed the attack on the Islamic State group. 
Previous attacks in Lebanon have been claimed by the IS group.

   The area of Mashrea Qaa --- a predominantly Sunni area that is near village 
of Qaa --- is home to a large number of Syrian refugees who have fled the war 
in Syria. Qaa is located about 70 kilometers (44 miles) north of the eastern 
Lebanese city of Baalbek.

   ___ 


(KA)

 
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