The al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front’s Lebanon branch claimed responsibility on Thursday evening for a powerful car bomb that exploded earlier that day in the Bekaa valley town of Hermel in eastern Lebanon.
In a message shared on the group’s Twitter account, said the deadly suicide bombing was “retaliation” for what it called Hizbullah’s involvement in Syria.
The statement also blamed Hizbullah for having their offices situated in civilian areas.
Lebanese Red Cross Operations Director Georges Kettaneh told the Lebanese National News Agency that four people had been killed and at least 40 injured in the attack – several of them critically.
The attack took place at 8:55 am in front of the main government administration building in Hermel, according to security officials. Military experts said on Thursday afternoon that the car bomb was a suicide attack with at least 35 kilograms of explosives.
Initial reports emerged saying the car involved in the explosion was a stolen Kia.
Witnesses said the attack, which damaged buildings around Hermel’s main square, shocked residents in the middle of the town, a bustling commercial, residential and administrative area.
“The explosion was huge. People are really scared and upset. It took place just as people were on their way to work and to go about their daily business in the middle of town,” said Ali Shamas, the headmaster of a Hermel college.
“There was a lot of smoke rising from the scene.”
Shamas also said the security forces and army troops deployed in the square shortly after the attack.
Lebanese politicians reacted strongly to the Hermel blast, denouncing it as terrorism and calling for national unity in the wake of the strike.
Lebanon has witnessed multiple major car bomb attacks since July 2013. On January 2, an explosion in Beirut’s Dahyieh suburb of Haret Hreik killed four people, less than a week after a car bomb in downtown Beirut killed eight people, including former Finance Minister Mohammed Shatah.