Via NBC News:
Updated at 9:57 a.m. ET: BEIRUT, Lebanon –At least eight people were killed and 78 wounded by a huge blast that exploded in a street in central Beirut on Friday, a security official told NBC News, raising fears that sectarian violence raging in neighboring Syria had spread to the Lebanese capital.
It was not immediately clear whether the blast had been caused by a car bomb, although all evidence pointed to that, the country’s top military judge Hatem Madi told NBC News in Beirut.
It was also not clear if the explosion targeted any political figure in Lebanon’s divided community but it occurred at a time of heightened tension between Lebanese factions on opposite sides of the Syria conflict.
Josh Wood, a freelance journalist based in Beirut, posted this photograph on Twitter,
From the report Wood contributed to in the NY Times global
The identities of the dead were not immediately clear, and there was no word on who was behind the blast, which the authorities said had been caused either by a car bomb or a bomb hidden in the street or under a vehicle parked in the affluent Sassine area, about two blocks from a gleaming shopping center.
Shattered glass fell from buildings several blocks away. One car’s blackened and ripped hulk appeared to have been thrown on top of another by the blast. Shutters were askew on a traditional Lebanese house across the narrow street. Fire trucks, ambulances, police and soldiers crowded the neighborhood.
Not far behind them came phalanxes of politicians marching in suits and ties from all directions to point fingers — but also to plead that Lebanon not get dragged into tit-for-tat killings or a return to the sectarian conflict that convulsed this Mediterranean seaside city during the 1975-1991 civil war.
The explosion shook the neighborhood just before 3 p.m., sending black smoke rising over the Sassine area, a wealthy shopping and residential district. Beirut cellphones were jammed as people spread the news.