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Mysterious Explosion Rocks Islamic Militant Stronghold in Lebanon

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A powerful explosion shook a Hezbollah stronghold in southern Lebanon on Tuesday, sending thick grey smoke billowing over the village.

The Lebanese army said the blast occurred in a building in the southern village of Ain Qana near the port city of Sidon.

It said the cause of the explosion, which damaged buildings, shattered windows and caused panic among residents, was not known.

Lebanon is still reeling from last month’s massive explosion in Beirut and struggling with an unprecedented economic crisis.

“Thank God that there were no human losses, but there was a lot of panic, everyone was frightened,” one villager said.

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Lebanon’s official news agency said the explosion coincided with Israeli flyovers.

The Israeli military declined to comment. Hezbollah and Israel fought a month-long war in 2006.

Since then, the Iran-backed militant group is believed to have expanded its arsenal, amassing tens of thousands of rockets and missiles that can hit virtually anywhere in Israel.

Hezbollah members imposed a security cordon around the blast area on Tuesday, barring journalists from reaching it.

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Footage broadcast by a local station showed damage to buildings and debris scattered across a large area. The shaky footage also showed what appeared to be a bus on fire. Other footage showed a wrecked SUV parked outside a damaged house.

The mysterious blast comes seven weeks after the giant explosion at Beirut’s port, caused by the detonation of nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate.

That explosion killed nearly 200 people, injured 6,500 and damaged tens of thousands of buildings in the capital.

It is still not clear what caused the initial fire that ignited the chemicals.

A Hezbollah official said there were no casualties from Tuesday’s explosion and that no Hezbollah members were targeted.

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A Lebanese security official said the explosion occurred in a Hezbollah arms depot in the village but did not elaborate on the cause.

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