Blast in Lebanon injures Italian peacekeepers - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Blast in Lebanon injures Italian peacekeepers

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ROME (AP) — Military officials say no Italian peacekeepers have died in a blast in south Lebanon, correcting an earlier report from the country's foreign ministry.

The joint chief of staff's office says six Italian peacekeepers in the U.N. mission were wounded when a blast hit their vehicle in Sidon, and two of them are in grave condition.

Italian Foreign Ministry officials had issued condolences and had said there was one dead. But Italian military personnel say they went to the hospital in Sidon where the six injured were taken and said none had died.

There are nearly 1,800 Italians in the U.N. Unifil peacekeeping force.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

BEIRUT (AP) — A roadside bomb ripped through a convoy of U.N. vehicles carrying Italian peacekeepers in the country's south Friday, killing one of the soldiers and wounding several others, officials said.

Italian Foreign Ministry spokesman Maurizio Massari confirmed the peacekeeper's death and said the blast hit a vehicle carrying six Italian soldiers in the southern port city of Sidon.

Lebanese security and military officials, however, said six U.N. peacekeepers and two civilians were wounded. One of the peacekeepers was in serious condition, the officials said.

The U.N. peacekeeping force, known as UNIFIL, is deployed in southern Lebanon to monitor the border with Israel. Neeraj Singh, a UNIFIL spokesman, said "we have reports of some casualties of UNIFIL peacekeepers."

The army sealed off the area with yellow tape and was keeping journalists away. But a blackened white UNIFIL jeep could be seen, its top and left side destroyed.

The powerful explosion caused a large crater and broke the cement barrier on the highway.

The last such incident was in January 2008, when a roadside bomb struck a U.N. vehicle traveling along the coastal highway south of Beirut, lightly wounding two peacekeepers.

The deadliest attack was in June 2007, a bomb hit an armored personnel carrier near the Israeli border and killed six Spanish peacekeepers.

No group has claimed responsibility for any of the attacks targeting UNIFIL.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, expressing condolences in a statement, praised the UNIFIL mission, saying it makes a "decisive contribution to the stability to one of the most sensitive Middle Eastern areas."

Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati condemned the explosion in a phone call to the U.N. special coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams.

The explosion came the same day that UNIFIL commemorates the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers to honor colleagues who lost their lives in the line of duty.

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