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Curfew and raids in Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon after series of blasts

Security restrictions come after a string of deadly bombings in a majority-Christian village close to the border with Syria
Lebanese soldiers stand guard in front of a church where a suicide bomber blew himself up the previous day in the Christian village of al-Qaa (AFP)

Lebanese authorities imposed a curfew on Syrian refugees in the country on Tuesday, following a series of deadly bombings on Monday.

The army also carried out dawn raids at six separate camps for Syrian refugees – a total of 103 people were arrested for residing in Lebanon without appropriate documentation, according to an army statement.

Local authorities in the small town of Hermel, close to the border with Syria, announced a 72-hour curfew for Syrian nationals residing there, while the council of al-Qaa village imposed an open-ended curfew.

Al-Qaa was rocked on Monday evening by a string of four suicide attacks that killed eight people at a church, hours after bombings killed five in the same village.

Local newspaper the Daily Star reported that the second spate of attacks hit a church where residents were holding a vigil to mourn the victims of earlier suicide attacks that took place in the village on Monday.

While Lebanese newspaper Assafir cited military sources saying that the attackers may have come from inside the camps, Interior Minister Nuhad Mashnuq told reporters that the attackers came from Syria, not from the camps.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but analysts cited by AFP said the bombings bore the hallmark of both the Islamic State (IS) group and al-Qaeda. 

Al-Qaa is a predominantly Christian village that has been shaken by violence for the last five years since the outbreak of the civil war in Syria. It is one of several border posts separating Lebanon from Syria. 

Hospital officials reported that at least 13 people were wounded in the later attacks, according to the state-run National News agency. The Lebanese Red Cross said three suicide bombers had died in the attacks.

A military source told AFP that the first attacker knocked on the door of one of the homes in the village, but blew himself up after the resident became suspicious.

Three other suicide attackers then detonated their own explosives as people began gathering to treat the wounded.

The mayor of al-Qaa, Bashir Matar, issued an urgent call to residents to stay indoors in televised remarks warning of suicide bombers potentially roaming the village.

“The security situation today is above all considerations,” Khodr said in a statement to the LBC television channel.

Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah denounced the attacks as a “crime borne of terrorist ideology".

UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag called for international support to help the Lebanese army confront “security challenges” and the “terrorist threat in Lebanon and along its borders”.

Lebanese army chief General Jean Kahwaji said al-Qaa and other border villages “represent Lebanon’s first defence lines against terrorism”.

Suicide blasts in the area have typically targeted checkpoints or military installations, and have rarely involved more than one attacker.

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