Security forces secure the site of multiple suicide bombings on June 27, 2016 in the predominantly Christian village of Al-Qaa, near the border with Syria in eastern Lebanon
Security forces secure the site of multiple suicide bombings on June 27, 2016 in the predominantly Christian village of Al-Qaa, near the border with Syria in eastern Lebanon © - AFP
Security forces secure the site of multiple suicide bombings on June 27, 2016 in the predominantly Christian village of Al-Qaa, near the border with Syria in eastern Lebanon
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AFP
Last updated: January 1, 1970

Multiple suicide bombings kill five in eastern Lebanon: officials

A string of suicide bombings killed at least five people shortly before dawn on Monday in a Lebanese village near the volatile border with war-ravaged Syria.

The attacks came just hours after the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed seven soldiers on Jordan's border with Syria.

Monday's deadly blasts struck Al-Qaa, a predominantly Christian village nestled in a hilly border area shaken by violence since Syria's conflict erupted in 2011.

At least four suicide bombers hit the village from about 4:20 am (0120 GMT), the army said.

"The first attacker knocked on one of the homes in the village, but after the resident became suspicious, he blew himself up," a military source told AFP.

Three other suicide attackers had detonated their own explosives as people began gathering to treat the wounded.

Security forces were seen cordoning off the site of the blasts, which lies on a main road linking the Syrian town of Al-Qusayr to Lebanon's eastern Bekaa valley.

The road cuts through a residential area in the centre of Al-Qaa, and the explosions took place less than 100 meters (yards) from the village church.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but suicide attacks are typically carried out by jihadist organisations like the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda.

- 'People are on edge' -

Al-Qaa mayor Bashir Matar said two of the bombers blew themselves up "as people gathered to treat the wounded".

"We chased the fourth attacker and shot at him, and he blew himself up," Matar said, adding five villagers were killed.

George Kettaneh of the Lebanese Red Cross said there were "at least eight killed including three suicide bombers" and 15 wounded.

The army said four soldiers were wounded in the attacks, which the National News Agency reported took place at 10 minute intervals.

Resident Fadi Bsherrawi said he woke up when he heard the first blast, but went back to sleep thinking it was just fighting near the border.

"I really woke up to the sound of the second attack," he told AFP.

Neighbours told him later that one Muslim resident was having a morning meal before beginning his day of fasting for Ramadan when he saw a strange group of men outside.

"He went outside to talk to them and they wanted to stir things up. So his son fired on them with a hunting rifle" before the explosions started, Bsherrawi said.

Paramedics began to arrive after the first suicide attack.

"One rescue worker who was trying to carry a wounded man was killed when the second terrorist suicide bomber came," he said.

"We have guards all the time. The village is always ready and people are on edge."

- First lines of defence -

The bombings were denounced by Prime Minister Tammam Salam, army chief General Jean Kahwaji and the powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah which saw them as a "crime borne of terrorist ideology".

UN special coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag condemned the attacks and called for international support to help the Lebanese army confront "security challenges" and "the terrorist threat in Lebanon and along its borders".

Kahwaji paid tribute to Al-Qaa and other border villages which, he said, "represent Lebanon's first defence lines against terrorism".

Al-Qaa is one of several border posts separating Lebanon and war-torn Syria and is predominantly Christian although one district, Masharia Al-Qaa, is home to Sunni Muslims.

In addition, displaced Syrians fleeing the war next door have set up an informal camp adjacent to the village.

The border area has been rocked by clashes, shelling, and suicide attacks since Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011.

Suicide blasts in the area have typically targeted checkpoints or military installations and rarely include more than one attacker.

The attacks came after the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing on Tuesday along Jordan's borde with Syria that killed seven Jordanian soldiers.

Lebanon's army has fought off jihadist factions along its frontier and has sought to clamp down on cells operating in the area.

In August 2014, the army clashed with the IS and Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, in the border town of Arsal.

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