Deadly Explosion Rocks Christian Area in Beirut

An explosion in the Christian area of Beirut on Friday killed at least six people, wounded more than a dozen and set several vehicles on fire, according to local reports.

The blast apparently targeted a top-level intelligence officer who handled sensitive files on terrorist bombings. Capt. Wissam Eid, who had two previous attempts on his life, and his bodyguard were both killed by the bomb as they drove on a street in Hazmieh, on the Christian eastern edge of the capital, according to The Associated Press.

The country's national police chief, Brig. Gen. Ashraf Rifi, said Eid was an engineer who dealt with "very important" files, including "all those having to do with the terrorist bombings" in Lebanon, AP reported.

Ashraf confirmed that the blast was a car bomb that killed Eid.

Video footage showed huge clouds of black smoke rising from the streets and orange flames shooting up to the sky. The blast left a giant crater in the asphalt.

Local Future TV station, a private media with close ties to the government and the Interior Ministry, reported that 10 people died. Other Lebanese stations said at least six were killed and 18 wounded.

Friday's blast is the latest in a series of explosions that has hit Lebanon, including some outright political assassinations. Syria – considered a terrorist government by the United States and Israel – has been blamed for many of the bombings, but has denied any involvement.

In September, a bomb also exploded in the Christian area outside of Beirut killing a prominent Christian parliament member.

Antoine Ghanem, a member of the Christian Phalange party, was the eighth anti-Syria figure and fourth lawmaker to be assassinated in less than three years. Ghanem had only returned from refuge abroad two days before his unexpected death. Lebanese lawmakers blamed Syria for Ghanem's death.

Moreover, several months before Ghanem's death, another bomb exploded in an empty bus parked in the Christian neighborhood outside of Beirut, wounding seven passers-by.

Media reports noted that the police intelligence department, of which Eid was a member, is close to the Lebanese government's anti-Syrian majority, and has often received criticism by the pro-Syrian opposition.

Friday's blast came 10 days after a car bomb targeted at a U.S. Embassy car killed three bystanders and wounded 16, according to Reuters.