Blast Near U.S. Embassy Vehicle Kills 3

Military guards stand near where the bomb exploded. One American, a private citizen teaching in Beirut, was among the 20 people reported wounded.
Military guards stand near where the bomb exploded. One American, a private citizen teaching in Beirut, was among the 20 people reported wounded. (By Mitchell Prothero -- Bloomberg News)
By Alia Ibrahim and Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, January 16, 2008

BEIRUT, Jan. 15 -- A bomb exploded Tuesday next to a U.S. Embassy sport-utility vehicle on a coastal road in Beirut, killing at least three motorists nearby but only lightly injuring two embassy workers, American and Lebanese officials said.

One American, a private citizen teaching at a nearby school, was among 20 people reported wounded. U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey D. Feltman said the embassy vehicle appeared to have been the target of the attack, which occurred as President Bush was visiting Saudi Arabia on the first extended Middle East tour of his presidency.

The bomb struck as two Lebanese employees of the U.S. Embassy were returning to the city after dropping off a third official at the airport, security officials said. The vehicle -- an SUV without embassy insignia or diplomatic license plates -- was on a highway adjoining a Christian neighborhood when the bomb went off.

Embassy officials said attackers had planted the bomb in a parked blue Honda, although local media reports said the bomb lay in a trash container along the highway. Lebanese security officials said the bomb contained about 30 pounds of explosives.

The bomb went off as two people in a BMW were passing the embassy vehicle, witnesses and security officials said. The BMW absorbed the brunt of the blast, which could be heard across the capital city.

Lebanese police said three people -- the two in the BMW and a man on a motorcycle -- were killed. U.S. officials put the number of dead at four.

Emergency workers made their way through blackened vehicles, evacuating the wounded and covering bodies in blankets that quickly became blood-soaked.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is traveling in the Middle East with Bush, called the bombing a "terrorist attack."

"The United States will, of course, not be deterred in its efforts to help the Lebanese people, to help the democratic forces in Lebanon, to help Lebanon resist force and interference in their affairs," she told reporters in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

An al-Qaeda spokesman, American-born Adam Gadahn, had urged followers in a message released last week to greet Bush with "bombs and booby-trapped vehicles." There was no immediate assertion of responsibility for Tuesday's attack.

Bush, who was scheduled to arrive in Egypt on Wednesday, had not included Lebanon on his itinerary.

Lebanon's cabinet met in emergency session after the explosion. "This is an attack against all the Lebanese people," Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said after the meeting.

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