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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 September 2005, 00:08 GMT 01:08 UK
Explosion hits Lebanese capital
Scene of a bomb explosion in Beirut
The explosion was heard several kilometres away
A powerful blast has rocked an eastern suburb of the Lebanese capital, Beirut, killing one person and injuring at least 22 more.

The explosion happened in the Ashrafiya area, a part of the city that has a large Christian population.

Two cars were blown up and a nearby building was damaged several floors above the ground, TV pictures showed.

Beirut has experienced a wave of blasts this year, including one that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Earlier this week, a UN investigator looking into Hariri's killing on 14 February visited Lebanon's neighbour, Syria, to prepare interviews with local officials.

Syria under pressure

The latest blast took place just before midnight (2100 GMT) near a branch of the Byblos Bank, and was heard several kilometres away, witnesses said.

Lebanese soldiers sealed off the scene as bloody victims were ferried to hospitals in ambulances.

Scene of a bomb explosion in Beirut
The bomb was said to have been placed in or near a car
A correspondent for the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation said the bomb killed a coffee shop owner and wounded several customers, but the report was not confirmed.

Anti-Syrian activists blamed Damascus for the attack. They also blame Syria for the death of Hariri and other bombings - accusations that Syria strongly denies.

"This is a criminal act that comes as part of a series of other criminal acts that Lebanon witnessed," MP Atef Majdalani told the Associated Press.

"The remains of the Syrian and Lebanese security regime are still present and they are behind this act."

Arrests

Several political figures and members of the public have been killed in bombings in recent months.

In June, two prominent anti-Syrian figures were killed in separate bombs.

In July, Elias Murr, defence minister in both the outgoing pro-Syrian cabinet and the incoming pro-Syrian one, was wounded in a bomb blast.

Street protests and international pressure following Hariri's death led Syria to withdraw thousands of troops it had stationed in Lebanon as part of a deal ending years of civil war.

Elections held after the withdrawal delivered victory to a coalition headed by Hariri's son, Saad, who had campaigned for an end to Syria's influence in Lebanon.

A UN investigation into Hariri's assassination has accused four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals of involvement. They have all been arrested by Lebanon.



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