updated 9/16/2005 9:12:08 PM ET 2005-09-17T01:12:08

A powerful bomb exploded in a Christian neighborhood of eastern Beirut late Friday, killing at least one person and wounding 23, officials said. It was the latest in a series of bomb attacks to rock Lebanon’s capital.

The bomb detonated just before midnight and heavily damaged the balconies and facades of several buildings along a street and destroyed at least two cars.

Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi, commander of the Internal Security Forces, said the explosive had been placed in a bag that was hidden between two cars, and detonated with a timing device.

The Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. correspondent at the scene said the explosion went off near a coffee shop, killing its owner and wounding several people who were at his place.

Wounded people could be seen carried to ambulances that rushed to the scene. Officials at Jitawi and St. Georges Hospitals said one person died and 23 others were wounded.

U.N. investigator on the way
The blast came days ahead of an expected visit by a U.N. investigator to Damascus to interview top Syrian officials over the deadliest of Lebanon’s recent bomb attacks — the Feb. 14 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Many Lebanese have expressed worries that bombings could increase as the investigation pushes forward. The U.N. team has already accused four senior Lebanese security officials who carried out Syrian policy in the country.

Since Hariri’s death, there have been a string of bombs set off in public places, including shopping centers and tourist streets — many of them in mainly Christian districts. In the most recent explosion, an Aug. 22 bomb wounded five people. No one has been arrested in the blasts.

‘A message against stability’
An anti-Syrian legislator accused the remnants of Syria’s security apparatus of being behind Friday’s blast. “The remains of the Syrian and Lebanese security regime are still present and they are behind this act,” said Atef Majdalani.

Another anti-Syrian legislator, Michael Pharaoun, said “it is for sure a message against stability in Lebanon.” He added that it comes before a planned conference on Lebanon in New York Monday.

Many in Lebanon accuse Syria in the killings of Hariri and other anti-Damascus figures, a charge Syria denies.

Syria controlled Lebanon for years and had troops in the country for 29 years, until April, when it was forced to withdraw them, in part because of huge protests over Hariri’s slaying.

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