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Bomb Damages Christian Town Near Beirut

Twelve Wounded In Fourth Attack In Two Weeks

Saturday, April 2, 2005; Page A18

BROUMMANA, Lebanon, April 1 -- A bomb ripped through a shopping center in a Christian resort village east of Beirut late Friday, wounding 12 people and causing extensive damage, civil defense officials said.

The blast occurred shortly after Lebanon's parliament speaker said pro-Syrian Prime Minister Omar Karami would try again to form a government to supervise elections scheduled for May, rather than step down as he had previously said.

A Lebanese rescue worker reacts as soldiers block onlookers, right, at the site of an explosion at a shopping center in Broummana, which is about 10 miles northeast of Beirut. (Petros Karadjias -- AP)

One U.S. citizen was among those wounded when the explosion rocked Rizk Plaza in Broummana, a popular Arab tourist destination in the summer, witnesses said. It was the fourth bomb attack on Christian areas in or around the capital in two weeks.

The bomb exploded in the shopping center's underground garage, shattering windows and reducing several cars to blackened hulks.

"What do they want with us? Why don't they leave us alone? We just want to live in security," said Marie Aswan, who lives in an apartment across the road from the shopping complex.

She said her son and son-in-law had been taken to a hospital with cuts from flying shards of glass that hit them when the explosion blew out windows in their house.

Druze opposition leader Walid Jumblatt blamed the bombing on Lebanon's Syrian-backed security services, saying they "only want terrorism and know their days are numbered."

"They are trying to terrorize the people, but the people . . . won't be brought to their knees," he told al-Jazeera television.

Lebanon has been in political turmoil since former prime minister Rafiq Hariri was assassinated in a huge bomb attack that killed 19 other people in the heart of Beirut on Feb. 14. The opposition staged mass protests after Hariri's killing to demand Syria end a 29-year military and intelligence presence in Lebanon. Syria has since begun a pullout.

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