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September 25, 2017

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Car bomb attack in Beirut leaves 8 dead and wounds dozens

BEIRUT -- A powerful car bomb ripped through a street in mainly Christian east Beirut on Friday, killing at least eight people and wounding scores, as tensions grow in Lebanon over the war in neighboring Syria.

The National News Agency, citing civil defense figures, said the blast occurred at 1300 GMT only 200 meters (yards) from the headquarters of the Christian party, the Phalange, which is hostile to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

At least eight people were killed and 78 wounded, the agency added.

An AFP photographer saw two apartment buildings devastated by the bombing in a narrow street off Sassine Square in Ashrafieh. One building was still ablaze as Red Cross workers evacuated bloodied casualties.

Balconies were torn off by the force of the blast, windows shattered and cars crushed by falling masonry.

"We heard a powerful explosion. The earth shook under our feet," said Roland, 19, among a large crowd of army, rescue workers and onlookers.

Nancy, aged 45, was in tears as she reflected on having nearly missed death.

"I was just coming home when I saw my house in flames. I would have been dead if I had stayed home."

Relatives of employees at BEMO bank, whose windows were broken, dashed to the area to look for their children. "Where is Pierre?" one man cried, as a young woman searched for her mother in the rubble.

A rescue worker, identifying himself as Rahmeh, said "this reminds me of attacks during the (1975-1990) civil war and after the war."

Soldiers and Interior Minister Marwan Sharbel was also at the scene of the first car bombing in Beirut since Jan. 25, 2008, when Lebanon's top anti-terrorism investigator was slain along with three other people.

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