Associated PressAn injured boy is carried from the scene of an explosion in Beirut Friday.
Hussein Malla/Associated PressA man carried a boy from the scene of the blast.
BEIRUTóA senior Lebanese intelligence official opposed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was killed along with several other civilians in a massive car bombing in the Lebanese capital on Friday, the Lebanese government said.
Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan was the head of the intelligence unit of Lebanon's Internal Security Forces, and an ally of the main anti-Assad political coalition in Lebanon. His apparent assassination is expected to plunge Lebanonóa divided nation already reeling from the impact of the conflict in neighboring Syriaódeeper into crisis.
Gen. Hassan played a pivotal role, in early August, in uncovering an alleged plot by a pro-Assad Lebanese politician to carry out a bombing campaign in Lebanon at the behest of senior Syrian regime security officials.
Gen. Hassanówho, like the core of the opposition to President Assad, is a Sunni Muslimówas also instrumental in aiding the international tribunal that has been investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri in February 2005. He is also widely seen as a protťgť of Mr. Hariri's son Saad, who also served as prime minister until last year and is currently living in Paris for security reasons.
The Saudi-backed Mr. Hariri, who accuses the Syrian regime of assassinating his father, has openly backed Syria's opposition. His party has been linked to arms shipments to Syrian rebels. Mr. Hariri has said he provides humanitarian assistance only.
"This is the gift of Bashar al-Assad and his devils," said Elias Atallah, a former Lebanese lawmaker and member of the anti-Assad coalition known as March 14, speaking at the scene of Friday's bombing in Beirut's Ashrafieh neighborhood.
Lebanon's state news agency said the bombing, which came shortly before 3 p.m. local time, appears to have been caused by more than 60 pounds of explosives placed in a parked car and detonated as Gen. Hassan's car passed by on a back street off the busy Sassine Square.
The blast killed at least three people and wounded 110, said Ayad al-Mounzer, a spokesman for the Lebanese Red Cross. He said more bodies could be found under the wreckage.
The blast tore off balconies and gutted apartments in several buildings and reduced to twisted metal the vehicles that had been parked nearby. Some residents were trapped in the flames that followed the attack, witnesses said. The explosion blew some doors from their hinges and shattered windows nearly a mile away.
A domestic worker with bloodied yellow overalls was seen holding the hand of a dazed woman speaking on her cellular phone as she walked away from the scene.
Sarah Abi Saab, 22, dressed in a T-shirt and pajama pants, said she was napping when the blast happened in front of her apartment building.
"The window and the door flew on my bed and I then ran out," Ms. Abi Saab said as she stood near a police and army cordon around at site of the blast. Write to Sam Dagher at email@example.com