BEIRUT, Lebanon — Hezbollah's leader said Friday that he is prepared to go to Syria personally to fight extremist Sunni Muslims whom he blamed for a deadly car bombing in Lebanon on Thursday.
The bombing, which killed at least 24 people, was the second in a little more than a month to hit the militant Shiite movement's base in Beirut's southern suburbs. But unlike the first, which caused no deaths, the explosives-packed car that detonated outside a shoe store and a pastry shop appeared intended to cause maximum civilian casualties.
While Lebanon is no stranger to explosions, since the country's 15-year civil war ended in 1990 they have largely taken the form of targeted assassinations, with the civilian lives lost as tragic collateral. But since Hezbollah has begun sending fighters to Syria to help President Bashar Assad battle a largely Sunni opposition, the civil war there has taken an increasingly sectarian turn and reprisal attacks on the Shiite movement in Lebanon have multiplied.
Analysts cited Thursday's bombing as evidence that Iraq-style sectarian bombings have now reached Lebanon as Sunni-Shiite divisions widen.
"We are seeing the Iraqization of Lebanon, a spillover from Iraq to Syria to Lebanon," said Imad Salamey, an associate professor of political science at Lebanese American University.
In a televised speech Friday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah showed no sign of retreating from his decision to send fighters to Syria, a demand of the Syrian rebel groups.
Nasrallah said that if it is confirmed that the bombing was a retaliation for Hezbollah's role in Syria, he is prepared to double the number of fighters there. He said preliminary investigations by Lebanese authorities had found "takfiri" Muslim groups responsible, a term for Sunni extremists.