BEIRUT — An explosion tore through a crowded commercial street Thursday in a south Beirut neighborhood that is bastion of support for the Shiite group Hezbollah, killing at least five people, setting cars ablaze and sending a column of black smoke above the Beirut skyline.
It was the latest in a wave of attacks to hit Lebanon in recent months as the civil war in Syria increasingly spills into its smaller neighbor. The violence has targeted both Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods, further stoking sectarian tensions already running high as each community in Lebanon lines up with its brethren in Syria on opposing sides of the war.
The Lebanese army said 44 pounds of explosives were placed in a dark green SUV. It said authorities were investigating how the explosives were set off.
A security official said human remains were found in and around the vehicle, and authorities were investigating whether the blast could be a suicide bombing. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media, said a DNA test will be conducted to try identify the person who was in the car.
Lebanon’s official National News Agency said at least five people were killed and more than 50 wounded in the explosion, which left the mangled wreckage of cars in the street and blew out the windows of store fronts. The director of the Bahman Hospital, where dozens of the wounded were taken, said some of the injured were in critical condition.
Images from Associated Press television showed firefighters putting out the smoldering hulks of several cars that were set ablaze. Crowds swarmed around ambulances waiting for the wounded with their lights flashing. At least one building had part of its facade blown off, and several neighboring buildings were also damaged.