BEIRUT, Lebanon – An explosion apparently targeting former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s motorcade ripped through downtown Beirut on Monday, killing at least six people, witnesses and a politician said.
Lebanon’s most internationally known politician was unharmed, legislator Basses Yammout told The Associated Press from the scene.
Yammout said he did not speak to Hariri himself but said another politician had spoken to Hariri afterward.
Witnesses at the scene said Hariri’s motorcade was hit. Local media said some of the bodyguards were among the casualties.
TV footage from the scene showed the devastated front of a building and flames leaping from several cars. A burning person struggled to get out of a car via the window, fell on the ground and was helped by a bystander who used his jacket to put out the flames.
Explosions in Beirut — while common during the 1975-90 civil war — have become rare since the conflict ended. However, in October, amid rising tension between the opposition and the government, a car bomb seriously injured an opposition politician and killed his driver in Beirut.
The blast severely damaged at least one large building, the facade of which was blown off, covering cars, sidewalks and the street with rubble.
Heavily armed security forces cordoned off the area with yellow tape as rescue workers and investigators combed the scene apparently looking for casualties or clues to what caused the huge explosion.
The explosion near the city’s waterfront shortly before noon shook buildings in the city center and was heard in outlying hills overlooking the Lebanese capital.
Rubble and twisted debris covered a road lined with burning cars, the smoke from which enveloping the area as firefighters carrying houses raced to douse flames. A man and a woman were seen walking in separate locations with blood running down their faces.
The cause of the explosion was not immediately known.