Six Spanish soldiers killed in Lebanon


Madrid : Six soldiers of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) were killed and two wounded in a car-bomb attack, the Spanish news agency EFE said.

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Spanish Defence Minister Jose Antonio Alonso said Sunday that it was a "premeditated attack". An earlier theory that the troops were killed by a mine blast was ruled out.

Alonso added that the bombing occurred in southern Lebanon. Five of the soldiers were killed on the spot and one died later in the hospital.

UNIFIL commander Italian Gen. Claudio Graziano called the incident "the most serious … since last summer", when the UN troops were stationed in Lebanon after the undeclared war between Israel and Hezbollah.

Lebanese military and police sources told EFE the bomb that killed the soldiers was hidden inside a white Renault Rapid with a fake number plate.

They said that pieces of the vehicle were found in the corpses and the bodies of those wounded in the blast.

Alonso said that three of the dead soldiers were of Colombian origin and three were Spaniards.

The three Colombian-born soldiers were identified as Jefferson Vargas Moya, 21, Jackson Castaño Abadia, 20, and Juan Erickson Posada, also 20.

The three Spanish soldiers were Jonathan Galea Garcia, 18, Juan Vidoria Diaz, 20 and Manuel David Portas Ruiz, 19.

A resident of Jiam who spoke on condition of anonymity told EFE that he saw the same Renault Rapid driving around in town along with a Mercedes Saturday and that something about it caught his attention, but the cars disappeared quickly.

Lebanon's official ANN news agency reported that the explosive charge was a very large one and was set off by remote control.

The huge blast could be heard several kilometres away from Sahel – where it occurred – to Derdara, adjacent to the city of Jiam, the largest urban zone under Spanish control in southern Lebanon.

Immediately after the attack, Spanish members of UNIFIL, aided by Lebanese soldiers, cordoned off the area and did not allow access to anyone, not even journalists or photographers.

Lebanese President Emile Lahoud condemned the attack against the Spanish troops.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora called Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to express his condolences over the deaths of the soldiers.

The Shiite militia group Hezbollah, meanwhile, condemned the attack on the Spanish peacekeepers and called it "a suspicious act that hurts the residents of southern Lebanon".

Spain sent peacekeepers to Lebanon last year to help implement UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the undeclared July-August 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.

Of the 27,000 UN peacekeeping troops stationed in Lebanon, about 1,100 are Spanish.