A car bomb rocked a stronghold of the Shiite militant Hezbollah group in a bustling suburb of Beirut today, setting several cars on fire and wounding 37 people in a major security breach of a tightly-guarded area, security officials said. When Interior Minister Marwan Charbel came to inspect the scene, crowds of people attacked him with stones, trapping him in a building for 45 minutes, until someone escorted him out the back door and Hezbollah operatives fired into the air to disperse the crowd.
A group of about 100 outraged Hezbollah supporters marched in the area after the blast, carrying pictures of Hezbollah chief Sheik Hassan Nasrallah and shouting in support of their leader. "The Shiite blood is boiling," they shouted. The blast, which came as Lebanese Shiites began observing the holy month of Ramadan, is the worst explosion to hit the area in years—likely direct fallout of the civil war raging in neighboring Syria. Charbel is seen by some Shiites as sympathetic to hardline Sunni cleric Ahmad al-Assir, who was agitating against Hezbollah for months and is now on the run.