Beirut explosion injures 3

A powerful explosion late Monday rocked a shopping center and hotel in the Zalka neighborhood in north Beirut, injuring at least three people and causing extensive damage, security officials said.

Heavily armed Lebanese soldiers cordoned off the area, punching and hitting journalists to keep them back.

Two workers could be seen helping a black-clad, veiled woman down the glass-covered front stairs of the Promenade Hotel. She appeared shaken but not injured. Shattered glass and plaster filled the hotel lobby, but no residents were hurt.

Brig. Gen. Darwish Hobeika, Lebanon's Civil Defense Corps commander, told Lebanese Broadcasting that two people were lightly injured and one Civil Defense rescuer was hurt.

The explosion shattered the windows of several apartment buildings and blew shutters off dozens of luxury boutiques in the neighborhood. Black smoke billowed high in the night sky, but there was no fire.

Aluminum siding and roofing in the shopping center buckled. The state-run National New Agency estimated the explosion was caused by 45 pounds of TNT.

Security forces were seen rounding up several suspects, including five men with their hands tied behind their backs who were taken to a military vehicle.

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