Hezbollah turns Beirut bastion into fortress

Hezbollah turns Beirut bastion into fortress
A picture of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is seen on a balcony during a candle light vigil in solidarity with people who died in a car bomb in Beirut's southern suburbs August 19,2013. - Reuters

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Streets leading into powerful Hezbollah's stronghold in the southern suburbs of the Lebanese capital have been cordoned off, as guards in civilian clothes search a long line of cars.

The Shiite militant group was already accused of running a "state-within-a-state," but two car bombings in the area in as many months have spurred Hezbollah to turn the suburbs into a fortress.

At entrances to "dahiyeh", or the suburbs, young loyalists of the group which has thrown its military weight behind Syria's embattled president order drivers to open up their car boots.

Others wear uniform, carry walkie-talkies and are members of the Hezbollah-run "Union of Municipalities of the Southern Suburbs".

They also stop and ask for the IDs of bikers entering the densely populated neighbourhood.

"It's time to be vigilant. People are more relaxed when they see us," a Hezbollah guard told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Backed by Tehran and a key ally of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, the heavily armed Hezbollah suffered a severe blow on Thursday when a car bomb killed 27 people.

The attack, Lebanon's bloodiest since its 1975-1990 civil war, came just over a month on from another car bomb attack in the same area that wounded around 50 people.

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