Beirut Car Bomb Rocks Residential Area, Injuring 78

Blast during rush hour, in neighborhood full of shops and cafés, muddles possible political motivation

A Lebanese civilian carries an injured girl at the scene of an explosion in the mostly Christian neighborhood of Achrafiyeh, Beirut, Lebanon, Friday Oct. 19, 2012.
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A car bomb explosion Friday in Beirut killed at least eight and injured 78 in a residential neighborhood of the Lebanese capital.

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No group has yet claimed responsibility for the bomb, which detonated in a car parked in front of a library and went off during rush hour, when the area is packed with children riding home from school and residents shopping or sitting in street cafés, according to the BBC.

The blast was also a few hundred meters from the headquarters of a political group, the Christian Phalange Party, which strongly opposes neighboring Syria and its supporters in Lebanon.

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"Let the state protect the citizens. We will not accept any procrastination in this matter, we cannot continue like that. We have been warning for a year. Enough," said the group's leader, Sami al-Gemayel, to the Jerusalem Post.

According to the Syrian government's official news agency, Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi "condemned the coward terrorist act," saying in a statement Friday that "Such terrorist acts are condemned and unjustifiable wherever they happen."

The explosion left behind a shocked, chaotic aftermath of smoke and flames in the area. Ambulances rushed victims to nearby hospitals navigating around charred buildings and cars, and residents ran around amid Lebanese security forces looking for relatives and helping the wounded, Al Jazeera reports.

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The attack's location, in a predominately Christian and anti-Syrian area of East Beirut called Achrafieh, makes it unlikely that Syrian rebels were behind it, journalist Mitchell Prothero told the Guardian. It is the first bombing in the country since 2008.

**Update: Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, the head of the intelligence branch of Lebanon's Internal Security Forces, was killed in the blast, Reuters reports. Gen. Hassan was seen as among the most prominent opponents of the Syrian government and its allies in Lebanon, which is divided (mostly among religious lines) over the conflict in Syria. Hassan's death is the first indication of political motivation behind the blast.

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Seth Cline is a reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at