BEIRUT — An explosion tore through a crowded commercial street Thursday in a south Beirut neighborhood that is bastion of support for the Shiite group Hezbollah, killing at least five people, setting cars ablaze and sending a column of black smoke above the Beirut skyline.
The nature of the blast that hit during rush hour in the Haret Hreik neighborhood was not immediately clear, but a Lebanese security official said it appeared to be caused by a car bomb. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.
If confirmed as a bombing, it would be the latest in a wave of attacks to hit Lebanon in recent months as the civil war in Syria increasingly spills over into its smaller neighbor. The violence has targeted both Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods, further stoking sectarian tensions that are already running high as each community in Lebanon lines up with its brethren in Syria on opposing sides of the war.
Lebanon's official National News Agency said at least five people were killed and more than 50 wounded in the explosion, which left the mangled wreckage of cars in the street and blew out the windows of store fronts. The director of the Bahman Hospital, were dozens of the wounded were taken, said many of the injured were in critical condition.