Lebanon UN attack 'a message from Syria:' Hariri

11th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

The bombing that wounded five French UN peacekeepers in south Lebanon was a message from Syria, pro-Western opposition leader and ex-premier Saad Hariri tweeted on Sunday.

"Another message from Bashar" al-Assad, Hariri wrote on Twitter of the Syrian president whose regime has killed at least 4,000 people, according to the United Nations, in its crackdown on dissent since mid-March.

"Another Syrian message," added Hariri, who has been living abroad for several months.

The five French members of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) were wounded Friday when a bomb targeted their patrol on the outskirts of the coastal city of Tyre. Two passers-by were also wounded.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, the third this year on UNIFIL soldiers.

Friday's blast took place amid heightened tension over the revolt in Syria, with politicians and diplomats warning the unrest could spill into Lebanon, whose government is dominated by the pro-Syrian militant group Hezbollah.

The UNIFIL force stationed in the south of the country is considered an easy target if unrest did spread to Lebanon.

A security official in Tyre told AFP that two people are being sought in connection with Friday's attack. They were seen in a Mercedes car in the area more than an hour before the blast.

The device, "made up of four or five kilos of TNT, was set off from a distance just before the UNIFIL Jeep passed, destroying the front of the vehicle," the official said.

"If it had gone off at the very moment the Jeep was passing, none of them would have survived," he added.

Meanwhile UN chief Ban Ki-moon discussed the attack with Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour on the sidelines of a conference in Qatar on Sunday and called for a "thorough" investigation, his office said in a statement.

Ban and Mansour "both condemned in strong terms this week's attack" on UNIFIL and the UN chief urged the Lebanese foreign minister "to launch a thorough investigation into this attack without delay and bring the perpetrators to justice," the statement said.

Spain currently commands the 12,100-strong UNIFIL force, which was founded in 1978 and expanded after a 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.

France has one of the largest contingents with 1,300 soldiers.

In July, six French UNIFIL troops were wounded, one of them seriously, in the southern coastal town of Sidon, in an attack similar to Friday's. In May, six Italian peacekeepers were wounded in Sidon, also in a roadside bombing.

Three Spanish and three Colombian peacekeepers were killed in June 2007 when a booby-trapped car exploded as their patrol vehicle drove by.

© 2011 AFP

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