BEIRUT: Five members of the French contingent of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) were wounded Tuesday after a roadside bomb targeted their convoy in Sidon.
“According to preliminary reports, at around 6 p.m. today, an explosion targeted a UNIFIL convoy along the highway to Sidon,” UNIFIL spokesperson Neeraj Singh to The Daily Star, adding that five of the peacekeepers had been wounded in the incident while the rest were transported to hospital for treatment.
The attack, the second in less than two months, targeted a convoy made of five Advanced Personnel Carriers of the French contingent in Lebanon.
Security sources told The Daily Star that the blast hit the fifth U.N. vehicle, located at the rear of the French convoy. The remaining vehicles continued down the road as part of UNIFIL security measures.
Lebanese Army soldiers have been deployed on the scene and have cordoned off the area, shutting down roads leading to Beirut and south Lebanon.
“The attack has a similar pattern to the one that occurred in May,” a security source told The Daily Star, referring to the May 27 roadside bomb attack on Italian peacekeepers that led to the wounding of six members of the peacekeeping force. The U.N. were hit as their convoy was headed to Sidon at the time.
Explosives experts are at the scene and investigations have been launched, the source added.
Singh also said that UNIFIL forensic experts were at the scene and “we are working in coordination with the Lebanese Army to determine the circumstances of the incident.”
On hearing the news, Prime Minister Mikati called French Ambassador Denis Pietton and condemned the attack, a statement from his office said.
The prime minister also contacted Interior Minister Marwan Charbel and Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi and requested that an investigation into the case be launched immediately, the statement added.
The Lebanese Army is expected to release a statement on the incident shortly.
UNIFIL has around 12,000 troops and naval personnel in Lebanon after its expansion under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701.
Resolution 1701 was drafted to end the 2006 summer war between Lebanon and Israel. The UNIFIL peacekeeping presence was beefed up in the wake of the conflict and is mandated with maintaining a cessation of hostilities, as well as monitoring the implementation of 1701. Additional reporting by Patrick Galey