A suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowded cafe in the Tripoli neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen Saturday evening killing nine people and wounding more than 30, a security source told The Daily Star. Another suicide bomber blew himself up outside the coffee shop, according to unconfirmed reports.
The Nusra Front claimed responsibility for the twin blasts that targeted the Omran cafe in the majority Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen.
"A suicide operation targeted a cafe [belonging to] the Alawite Arab Democratic Party," the Nusra Front said on its social media pages, in reference to Jabal Mohsen's dominant group the ADP.
A Lebanese Army statement said the suicide bomber attacked the cafe at around 7:30 pm and that military police would investigate the bombing. Security forces cordoned off the area and started investigations. North Lebanon Governor Ramzi Nohra imposed a curfew until 7 am Sunday in Jabal Mohsen and surrounding areas.
ADP sources spoke about two suicide bombers involved in the attack. One of the kamikazes succeeded in entering the cafe but the second one couldn't and blew himself up outside, the sources said.
Corroborating the ADP reports, the state-run National News Agency named Taha Samir Kayal and Bilal Mohammad Ibrahim from the impoverished Tripoli neighborhood of Mankoubine as the two suicide bombers who carried out the attacks.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing pools of blood and human remains outside the cafe following the blasts.
Saturday’s explosion is the first serious breach to a security plan implemented in 2014 that ended years of clashes in Tripoli between the mostly Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen and the mostly Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh.
Recurring violence in Tripoli took on an increasingly sectarian nature with the beginning of the civil war in Syria. The ADP is an ally of President Bashar Assad, while Bab al-Tabbaneh’s residents largely support the Syrian uprising.
The suicide bombing came hours after Lebanon’s judiciary issued a new arrest warrant against the the leader of the ADP after he did not show up for a hearing Saturday.
The judiciary had withdrawn the previous arrest warrant, issued in February 2014 against former MP Ali Eid, last week, after he had fled to Syria and remained on the run with his son Rifaat since last June.
Eid has been charged with aiding a suspect in a twin bombing that targeted the Al-Taqwa and Al-Salam mosques in Tripoli, killing 47 people and wounded dozens of others.
Eid and his son fled to Syria when the Lebanese Army imposed a security plan in Tripoli.
The Saturday blast is also the first of its kind targeting a civilian neighborhood in Lebanon in nearly a year.
A series of car bombs and suicide attacks had targeted areas seen as sympathetic to Hezbollah from mid-2013 to early 2014 which were claimed by jihadi groups fighting in Syria, including Daesh and the Nusra Front.
But the situation had largely been contained after a massive security sweep busted a number of militant cells in the country.
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