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Reports: Car bomb explodes in Beirut


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Emergency crews arrive at the scene of the bombing.
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BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- A car bomb has ripped through a predominantly Christian area of Beirut early Saturday, sheering off part of a multi-story office building and raising concerns about more violence in the volatile Lebanese capital.

The city has been wracked by turmoil since last month's assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri.

There were no immediate reports of deaths in the bombing, but several people were transported to a hospital with injuries, authorities said.

The explosion occurred around 12:30 a.m. (5:30 p.m. ET Friday, 10.30 p.m. GMT) and could be heard downtown, more than eight kilometers (five miles) away.

Video of the lower portion of the building showed large chunks sheered off. Glass and other debris littered the area.

Shortly after the bombing, dozens of people took to the streets.

The vehicle containing the bomb landed about 50 meters (yards) away from where it exploded. All that was left of the car was a crumpled, burned out shell.

Security forces, including members of the Lebanese army and paramilitary forces, cordoned off the area.

Crime scene investigators were studying the wreckage to try to determine the type of explosive used, authorities said.

The explosion went off in the section of Beirut known as Jdeideh.

Eyewitnesses said the bombing could be an attempt to divide Christians and Muslims. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

It was the second car bombing in the capital in five weeks -- the first one being the massive explosion that killed Hariri.

The assassination of Hariri resulted in the resignation of Prime Minister Omar Karami's government and in massive demonstrations against Syria's troop presence.

Hariri was the chief opposition figure in Lebanon who spearheaded the push for Syrian troops and intelligence officers to leave Lebanon.

That movement culminated in the largest demonstration in the nation's history on Monday, with an estimated 500,000 to 1 million people cramming the streets, chanting, "Get out Syria!" The demonstration came one month to the day since Hariri's assassination.

Last week, Syria began pulling its 14,000 troops to the Bekaa Valley near the border, and vowed to bring all the troops and intelligence officials across the border into Syria later on.

And on Tuesday, under mounting international and domestic pressure, Syrian intelligence units began leaving parts of Beirut, a Lebanese army source told CNN. (Syria ends first phase)

The United Nations last year passed U.N. Resolution 1559, calling on the full withdrawal of Syrian troops and intelligence forces, and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said he wants Damascus to carry through with its obligations.

Annan's envoy to Lebanon, Terje Roed-Larsen, said Thursday he had reached an understanding with Syrian President Bashir Assad on Syria's withdrawal but declined to say if Assad had agreed to the timetable.

"I've been given commitments and I will see if these commitments are met," he said.


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