TRIPOLI, Lebanon (Reuters) - A car bomb destroyed a bus carrying soldiers in northern Lebanon on Monday, killing at least five people and wounding 35 in the second attack on the army in less than two months, security sources said.
They said four soldiers were among the dead in the attack in the northern city of Tripoli, scene of an Aug. 13 bombing that killed 15 people at a bus stop, including 10 soldiers.
Security forces sealed off the site where the bomb exploded during the morning rush hour in the Buhsas area at the southern entrance to Tripoli. Ambulances ferried casualties away.
The blast hurled the mangled remains of the explosives-laden car several metres (yards), shattered windows of nearby buildings and damaged several other vehicles.
“This is a direct targeting of the military institution,” former Prime Minister Najib Mikati, a Tripoli politician, told Voice of Lebanon radio station.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility.
The August bombing was the deadliest attack on the army since it crushed al Qaeda-inspired Muslim militants during 15 weeks of fighting at a nearby Palestinian refugee camp last year.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose country dominated Lebanon for three decades until 2005, warned earlier this month of a danger from what he called foreign-backed Sunni extremists in Tripoli -- a predominantly Sunni Muslim city.
Ad-Diyar newspaper warned on Monday of a growing threat from Islamist militants, especially in north Lebanon. “These elements have increased their presence,” the newspaper said in a front-page story published hours before the Tripoli bombing.
Syria deployed hundreds of troops on its border with north Lebanon last week in a move the Lebanese army said aimed to combat smuggling.
The Tripoli bombing followed what Syrian authorities said was an attack by an Islamist suicide bomber in Damascus on Saturday in which 17 people were killed.
Syria’s state news agency SANA said on Monday the vehicle that blew up near a security complex on the airport highway had crossed into the country from a neighbouring Arab state. Syria’s Arab neighbours are Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
Tripoli has endured deadly sectarian fighting linked to Lebanon’s broader political troubles in recent months, but tension has eased since rival Alawite and Sunni leaders in the city signed a reconciliation deal on Sept. 8.
Lebanon’s main Alawite group has close links to Syria, whose president is himself an Alawite. The Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shi‘ite Islam.