Suicide attack foiled at packed cafe in Hamra, Beirut
Beirut // Lebanese soldiers arrested a would-be suicide bomber inside a crowded cafe in one of the busiest neighbourhoods in the capital Beirut on Saturday night.
The man wearing an explosive bomb belt was detained after entering the coffee shop in the upscale Al Hamra neighbourhood, security sources said.
The cafe is on the main street of the bustling area, and was filled with people socialising on a weekend evening when the arrest occurred around 11pm local time (1am UAE).
The sources said the man was being followed by security forces, who have stepped up foot patrols in the neighbourhood in recent weeks.
The man was injured during the arrest, with several soldiers holding him down to ensure he was not able to detonate the belt, one security source said.
He was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment before interrogation, the sources added.
Lebanon has been hit by a string of bomb attacks in recent years, with some linked to the ongoing war in Syria.
Some of the deadliest blasts have targeted neighbourhoods sympathetic to Hizbollah movement, which is fighting alongside Syria’s government against rebels in Syria.
The casualties in the blasts have been almost exclusively civilians.
The Al Hamra neighbourhood, a district known for shopping and nightlife, has not previously been hit by an attack.
But in June 2016, the army said it had arrested extremists from ISIL planning attacks against busy areas, including Al Hamra.
A heavy security presence remained in place on Sunday with the cafe and several nearby restaurants closing after the incident.
But residents could still be seen on the street, which was reopened to traffic around an hour after the arrest.
In June, eight suicide bombers targeted a Christian village in north Lebanon near the Syrian border, killing five other people. Twin blasts in November 2015 killed 43 in the mostly Shiite southern districts of Beirut.
* Agence France-Presse and Reuters
Updated: January 22, 2017 04:00 AM