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1 suspect arrested after Lebanon car bombings kill 45

By Saad Abedine and David Simpson, CNN
updated 3:33 PM EDT, Sat August 24, 2013
  • NEW: Suspect seen on surveillance camera in Al-Salam mosque, state news says
  • NEW: Machine guns and grenades seized from suspect's home, says the report
  • Blasts occurred near mosques with Syrian ties
  • Lebanon's Hezbollah sends Shiite fighters to support Syrian government

(CNN) -- One suspect has been arrested in connection to a pair of car bombings that killed at least 45 people in northern Lebanon, the state-run National News Agency reported.

Shiekh Ahmed al-Ghareeb was seen on surveillance camera in Al-Salam mosque in the site of the explosion. Security forces raided his home in Al-Minye and seized some military machine guns and some grenades, according to the news agency.

The blasts Friday in Tripoli occurred near mosques run by Sunni imams with ties to Syrian rebels. While some Lebanese Sunnis have gone to neighboring Syria to fight alongside those trying to unseat President Bashar al-Assad's government, Shiites from Lebanon's Hezbollah group are fighting in support of the embattled leader.

Even before authorities had given indications as to who was behind the bombing, members of the Lebanese parliament from Tripoli issued a statement Friday night blaming "treacherous hands that strive to import the regional blaze into Lebanon," NNA reported.

The legislators also called on Tripoli residents to show restraint and cooperate with security officials.

In addition to the deaths, at least 500 people were reported injured in the blasts, which the National News Agency reported. The first one occurred near the Sunni al Taqwa mosque and the second was, minutes later, near al Salam mosque.

This latter explosion was close to the residences of acting Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Ashraf Rifi, the former head of the country's Internal Security Forces. Rifi is widely despised by Hezbollah and Lebanese politicians friendly to al-Assad, the Syrian president.

This bomb produced a crater 5 meters (16.4 feet) across, incinerated more than 60 cars and damaged six residential buildings, the news agency said.

Mikati issued a statement via Twitter condemning the bombings.

"We urge our children and brothers in Tripoli to practice self-restraint, and we pledge to them that we will always stand by them, especially during these critical times," he said.

Tammam Salam, the man designated to become Lebanon's next prime minister, cut short a private trip to Greece after the blasts.

"The crime of Tripoli is further evidence that the situation in Lebanon reached a very critical stage and requires us to be on high alert on the political, national and security levels in order to eradicate the internal strife," he said.

Hezbollah said, in its own statement, that the explosions were part of a "criminal scheme aimed at sowing seeds of strife among the Lebanese."

A car bombing in a southern suburb of Beirut earlier this month rocked a Hezbollah stronghold, killing at least 22 people and injuring hundreds.

Fears of religious warfare are potent in Lebanon, where a civil war between Christian and pro-Palestinian Muslim militias killed an estimated 150,000 people from 1975 until 1990.

CNN's Michael Pearson, Nada Husseini, and Hamdi Alkhshali contributed to this report.

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