Police captain killed in Beirut blast

A bomb exploded near an overpass in mainly Christian east Beirut today, killing a senior police officer and at least four other people, security sources said.

Police identifed the officer as Wisam Eid, a captain in a Lebanese police intelligence unit which is widely viewed as close to anti-Syrian ruling coalition leader Saad al-Hariri.

Firemen sprayed water over blazing cars and debris scattered over a road in the suburb of Hazmiyeh. A charred corpse was visible in one car. Body parts were strewn on the road.

The explosion occurred 10 days after a car bomb damaged a U.S. diplomatic car in the Lebanese capital, killing three people and wounding 16. No Americans were among the dead.

Last month a car bomb killed the army's chief of operations, Brigadier-General Francois Haj, in east Beirut.

Eid took up his post after his predecessor Samir Shehadeh was wounded in a roadside bomb south of Beirut in 2006.

The police intelligence unit has been closely involved in the U.N.-led investigation into the 2005 assassination of Hariri's father, former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

The majority coalition accuses Syria of being behind that blast and many of the 30 or more bombings that have hit Lebanon in the last three years, many targeting anti-Syrian politicians and journalists. Damascus denies any involvement in the attacks.

Bombers have also targeted U.N. peacekeepers in the south, while a revolt by al Qaeda-inspired Islamist militants in the north last year further undermined Lebanon's stability.

Apart from its security problems, Lebanon is in the thick of a long-running political conflict pitting the Western-backed ruling coalition against the Hezbollah-led opposition.

The dispute has paralysed government for more than a year and blocked election of a new president, leaving Lebanon with no head of state for the first time since its 1975-90 civil war.

Rival factions have agreed that army commander Michel Suleiman should be the next president, but remain at odds over how to share power in a future national unity government.

Mediation by Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa has failed to bridge the gulf. He is due to report on his efforts to Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on Sunday.

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