Middle East

Car bomb blast kills at least 14 in Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut

A powerful car bomb blast that ripped through a Beirut neighborhood that is a stronghold of the militant group Hezbollah killed at least 14 people Thursday, Lebanon's state-run news agency says, while a militant group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Sunni Islamist group, calling itself the Brigades of Aisha, said in a video statement to Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah that more attacks would be coming, Reuters reports.

The explosion triggered raging fires in cars and buildings, trapping dozens of people in a residential and commercial neighborhood. Dozens of ambulances rushed to the scene of the explosion and fire fighters were seen trying to evacuate residents from burning buildings.

It's the second such blast in just over a month in south Beirut. Groups opposed to Syria's President Bashar Assad have threatened to retaliate against Hezbollah for intervening on behalf of his regime in the Syrian civil war.

The explosion occurred on a bustling street in the Rweiss district, a heavily Shiite area and one of Hezbollah's bastions of support. The National News Agency said at least 212 were wounded.

Last month, a car bomb exploded in the nearby Beir al-Abed district, wounding more than 50 people.

Hezbollah's Al Manar TV said Thursday's blast occurred on the main road separating Rweiss from Beir al-Abed. It said several bodies were seen on the street following the explosion.

The violence raises the specter of Lebanon being pulled into the increasingly sectarian civil war raging next door in Syria.

Sunni-Shiite tensions have risen sharply in Lebanon, particularly since Hezbollah raised its profile by openly fighting alongside Assad's forces. Lebanese Sunnis support the rebels fighting to topple Assad, a member of a Shiite offshoot sect.

Syria-based rebels and militant Islamist groups have threatened to target Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon in retaliation for its increasingly overt role in Syria. The group's fighters played a key role in a recent regime victory in the town of Qusair near the Lebanese border, and Syrian activists say they are now aiding a regime offensive in the besieged city of Homs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.