BEIRUT — A briefcase packed with explosives went off at the Beirut Airport passenger terminal today, killing six people and wounding 73 others, police said.
The airport, reopened earlier this week after a five-day strike, was teeming with travelers when the bomb went off at 3:58 p.m.
Police said most of the dead and wounded were Lebanese and other Arabs and were airport employees or people who had come to see relatives off on flights.
Today's explosion was the first bomb attack this year at the airport, Lebanon's main link with the outside world.
Among the dead was the woman carrying the briefcase.
No Motive Given
A police spokesman said the woman, identified as Soraya Sahyouni, was "split in two." No motive for the bombing was given.
Witnesses said the bomb went off at the main entrance to the airport, which is in Syrian-controlled Muslim West Beirut.
Police said a Syrian soldier standing guard was among the casualties. He was from a battalion of Syria's elite special force in charge of the airport's security.
Two Lebanese riot policemen were injured, police added.
Syrian troops sealed off the area after the explosion and fired machine guns in the air to disperse people and make way for ambulances to evacuate the casualties, one witness said.
The Syrians barred reporters and photographers from the scene.
The witness, who requested anonymity, said he saw "at least four people lying on the floor with blood soaking their clothes."
"A man's leg was chopped off. Blood littered the airport's entrance. Everybody panicked. Women passengers shouted as they carried their children out of the airport premises," he said.
He said ambulances and civil defense volunteers rushed to the scene to evacuate the victims.
One airport official said flight operations were not affected.