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Beirut blast hits Hezbollah 'stronghold': At least five killed and 20 injured in powerful explosion in Lebanon

Lebanon's health ministry confirmed the death toll as security officials said a car bomb appeared to have been used
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A powerful explosion has killed at least five people and wounded at least 20 in the Lebanese capital Beirut.

Initial reports suggested a car bomb had been detonated during rush hour in the southern Haret Hreik suburb, described as a “ stronghold” for the Shiite Hezbollah group.

Images broadcast on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV channel showed a huge column of smoke rising from the site of the blast, and several cars still on fire.

A spokesperson for Lebanon's health ministry confirmed the death toll, and a security official said the attack appeared to have involved a car bomb.

The front of at least one building was completely blown off in the explosion, and several surrounding structures were damaged.

The Lebanese capital has suffered a number of bombings in recent months, including one last week which killed Mohamad Chatah, formerly Lebanon’s finance minister and ambassador to the US.

The bombs are seen as a result of the spilling over of sectarian conflict from neighbouring Syria.

Al-Manar said the explosion occurred “a few hundred metres from the politburo of Hezbollah”. It said the political office was not the target of the blast. 

Hezbollah security agents as well as Lebanese troops were trying to cordon off the area to keep the angry crowds away from the blast site. 

“Suddenly, the whole area went bright and we started running away,” said Ali Oleik, an accountant who works in a nearby office building. “I saw two bodies on the street, one of a woman and another of a man on a motorcycle who was totally deformed.” 

Authorities brought out bomb sniffing dogs, and at one point announced that there might be another bomb, setting the crowd scattering in panic from the area.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press

Video: Bombing rocks Beirut