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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bus Bombings Kill 3 in Lebanon

AIN ALAQ, Lebanon -- Bombs exploded on two buses in a Christian area of Lebanon on Tuesday, killing at least three people and wounding 20 on the eve of the second anniversary of the killing of ex-Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

Government sources said most of the casualties were on public buses carrying people to work in Beirut from Ain Alaq village near Bikfaya, hometown of former president Amin Gemayel, whose son was assassinated by gunmen in November.

The blasts wrecked the buses and other vehicles on a mountain road about 24 kilometers northeast of Beirut. Pools of blood lay near a minibus which had its roof torn off.

When the first bomb exploded, the driver of the second bus stopped and got out. His own bus then blew up, security sources said.

A police spokesman said the report of three deaths was preliminary and the toll could rise. It was not known why that area was targeted and no group claimed responsibility.

Tension has been running high in Lebanon since street clashes last month between supporters and opponents of the Western-backed government in which nine people were killed.

Pro-government groups had planned a mass rally in Beirut's Martyrs Square on Wednesday to mark Hariri's killing, despite fears of friction with opposition supporters camped nearby since Dec. 1 in a campaign to topple the anti-Syrian government.

Hariri's son, Saad, the leader of the majority anti-Syrian coalition, said the memorial would go ahead as planned. The bombings showed the need for the United Nations-backed tribunal to try suspects in his father's killing and other attacks, he said.

"This is new evidence that the international court is a Lebanese need ... to protect normal Lebanese," he told LBC television.

The opposition, led by Hezbollah, is holding back from endorsing the tribunal, saying it wants to make sure that it cannot be used as a political tool.

Lebanon has witnessed 15 attacks on politicians, journalists and public places since Hariri's slaying on Feb. 14, 2005. Many Lebanese blame the attacks on Syria, which denies any role in them. Government loyalists say the opposition wants to block the tribunal to protect Damascus.

The attacks were the first since the assassination of Gemayel, industry minister in Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's government, and there had been signs a deal was in the works to end the political crisis.