BREAKING NEWS++++Explosion targets UNIFIL patrol near Tyre+++++

UNIFIL patrol got attacked in Bourj al-Shemali, southeast of Tyre this Friday morning, wounding four French peacekeepers, a security source said.

The source said the explosion went off around 10 a.m.


BOURJ AL-SHEMALI, Lebanon: A roadside bomb ripped through a French UNIFIL patrol near the southern city of Tyre Friday, wounding five peacekeepers and one Lebanese civilian.

“This morning, a UNIFIL patrol traveling at the outskirts of Tyre was targeted by an explosion … five peacekeepers have been wounded as a result,” UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti told The Daily Star.

Security sources said a Lebanese man, traveling along the street on his motorcycle, was also wounded in the attack, which targeted a four-wheel drive vehicle belonging to the French contingent serving with the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon.

The wounded were taken to Jabal Amel hospital in Tyre. One of the French peacekeepers was said to be in a critical condition. The Lebanese man was identified as 19-year-old Ali Mohammad Safi.

Security sources said the bomb, placed under a garbage container on the side of a road leading to the Nabbaha neighborhood, went off around 10 a.m.

Tenenti said a UNIFIL forensic team and investigators are currently working with their counterparts in the Lebanese Army to determine circumstances behind the incident.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned the attack Friday.

“Lebanon, as a state and people, are in solidarity with the international forces and condemn the attacks against them,” Mikati said during a security meeting that he chaired at the Grand Serail, according to his press office.

This is the third roadside bomb targeting a UNIFIL convoy this year, with six Italian peacekeepers being wounded in May, while in July five French soldiers were wounded in another blast. Both occurred in Sidon, and no group has ever claimed responsibility for either attack.

The attack on the Italian peacekeepers prompted Italy to downsize its UNIFIL contingent, leaving the French with the largest in the peacekeeping force.

Following the July attack, reports surfaced that Paris threatened to downsize its contingent if future attacks occurred. In response, Prime Minister Najib Mikati sent a letter to President Nicolas Sarkozy in September assuring Paris that Lebanon would prevent future occurrences and urging Sarkozy to maintain its international peacekeeping numbers in Lebanon.

The prime minister said Friday’s incident would not affect the commitment of contributing countries to the UNIFIL, particularly French soldiers.

“Such attacks will not affect the work of the UNIFIL in the south especially the French contingent nor will it affect voluntary countries’ commitment to implementing Resolution 1701,” he was quoted as saying.

Mikati also said Lebanon considered that such crimes not only target the international forces, but also the security of Lebanese and especially southerners.

He also said that southerners have a relationship with the UNIFIL built on friendship and cooperation. – Additional reporting by Dana Khraiche.