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Overnight suicide car bombing in Lebanese capital of Beirut kills 1, wounds 20

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Lebanese army and citizens gather at the site of a car bombing in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. A powerful car bomb explosion rocked a neighborhood south of the Lebanese capital Tuesday, causing several casualties, a Lebanese security official and witnesses said. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

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Lebanese army and citizens gather at the site of a car bombing in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. A powerful car bomb explosion rocked a neighborhood south of the Lebanese capital Tuesday, causing several casualties, a Lebanese security official and witnesses said. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

BEIRUT - A suicide bombing in a southern Beirut neighbourhood killed a security officer and wounded 20 people, officials said Tuesday, as an al-Qaida-linked group warned that such attacks will continue as long as the militant Hezbollah group is taking part in Syria's civil war.

The overnight attack — the second such bombing this week — heightened fears that Lebanon was reverting to a cycle of violence after a few months of respite.

The explosion occurred near a checkpoint and a cafe in the Shatila area of the Lebanese capital just after midnight Tuesday. The area is a stronghold of the Shiite militant Hezbollah group, which has been heavily involved in fighting alongside President Bashar Assad's army in neighbouring Syria.

The state-run news agency said Tuesday that security officer Abdul-Karim Hodroj died in the explosion. It wasn't clear if the checkpoint, where Hodroj was deployed, was the intended target of the attack.

Among the wounded were people who had gathered at a nearby cafe to watch World Cup matches.

The explosion also comes amid mounting regional tensions over dramatic events in Iraq, where the al-Qaida splinter group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has seized large chunks of territory in the country's north and west.

On Friday, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden car near a police checkpoint in eastern Lebanon, killing a police officer and wounding several people.

A Lebanese al-Qaida-linked group, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which claimed responsibility for similar attacks in the past, warned Hezbollah supporters that they will not live in safety as long as the Iranian-backed group continues to take part in the Syrian civil war.

Sirajuddin Zurayqat, a spokesman of the Azzam Brigades, said in an audio released Tuesday: "You will not enjoy living safely until security returns to the people of Syria and Lebanon."

He did not directly claim responsibility for the latest attacks but said "our strikes against you will continue as long as your presence in Syria continues."

The bombings, coupled with the detention in Beirut of alleged militant sleeper cells on Friday, sparked fears of renewed violence in a country which has been affected by Syria's conflict.

Lebanese security officials said Tuesday that only one man was still being held, a French citizen of Comoros origin. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said the man was waiting for orders to carry out an attack in Lebanon.

Syria's civil war has spilled into neighbouring Lebanon on multiple occasions and inflamed sectarian tensions. A series of car bombs have struck Shiite areas across Lebanon, killing dozens of people.

But Lebanon recently saw a lull in spillover attacks. Until last Friday, the last major explosion to hit Lebanon was on March 29, when a suicide bomber in an explosives-laden car targeted a Lebanese army checkpoint near the Syrian border, killing three people.

Hard-line Sunni groups have claimed responsibility for the attacks against Shiite areas, saying they are meant to punish the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah movement for its involved in the Syrian civil war, where predominantly Sunni rebels are fighting to topple Assad.

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