'Twelve killed' in Lebanon explosions

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The Independent Online

Two blasts minutes apart tore through two buses travelling today near a mountain town northeast of Beirut. At least 12 people were killed and 10 more wounded, the country's state-run news agency said.

A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a bomb first exploded in one bus, causing damage and casualties. As people rushed to the scene, a second explosion ripped through a second bus that had driven up behind it, the official said.

The news agency said at least 12 had died and 10 were wounded.

An exact casualty count, however, was not yet available and officials said dead and wounded may have been taken to various hospitals.

Red Cross operations chief George Ketanneh told the Voice of Lebanon radio station that so far his team had counted only three dead in two hospitals. He added that many of the wounded were in a serious condition.

Former president Amin Gemayel, a Christian, told the same radio station that "alien hands," were behind the explosions on being the explosions. "Lebanese do not kill Lebanese."

Ambulances, sirens wailing, could be heard driving up the mountain road, about 30 minutes northeast of Beirut.

The 9.15am explosions in the Christian northern Metn region come a day before pro-government factions prepared to mark the anniversary of the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The explosion at Ein Alaq is just a few minutes down the road from Bikfaya, the mountain hometown of the family of Pierre Gemayel, the industry minister who was killed by assassins on a street in November. His father, former President Amin Gemayel, visited the White House and met with George Bush last week.

Lebanese TV footage showed twisted wrecks of the first minibus, its roof blown off. The explosions took place amid a thunder and rain storm.

Red Cross officials quoted by Future TV, the TV station of the Hariri family, said there were three killed, seven wounded.

In the heavy rain, the buses lay some 30 metres apart, the first with its roof twisted and its back side shattered completely, an indication the explosive had been placed there.

Troops and police, using sniffer dogs quickly sealed off the area and blocked the road, a usually busy road linking Christian towns in the mountains with the capital.

Television footage showed at least one bus totally destroyed and ambulances carrying away people. Blood was pooled in several places near the bus wreckage.

Appeals for urgent blood donations were broadcast as ambulances rushed casualties to hospitals in the region and in Beirut. The Voice Of Lebanon radio stations said the targeted buses were driving people to their work.