ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

In Lebanon today, two buses filled with commuters were destroyed by explosions in a Christian village northeast of Beirut. At least three people were killed and 20 wounded in what Lebanon's Interior Ministry called a bomb attack.

The explosions sent tensions soaring. Large crowds are expected to gather tomorrow to mark the second anniversary of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

NPR's Peter Kenyon visited the scene of the attack in the mountains above the Lebanese capital and he filed this report.

PETER KENYON: Wind-driven winter rains slam across the faces of soldiers and ambulance drivers as they work the crime scene on a twisting mountain road in the village of Ein Alaq. Two mini buses, the type used by local workers and students that need cheap transportation, sat in the charred ruins. Two yards down the hill, Tanya Korry(ph) said when she heard a boom this morning, she thought it was thunder until she heard the screams and run outside to see the bomber's handiwork.

Ms. TANYA KORRY: (Through translator) The people in the bus were - have no hand, the hair was burned. They were screaming. The people are - like, there was a woman named - I knew she was a woman because I could she her chest. Her internal organs were all outside soaked over. And as they were trying to get to this people, my sons and I, there was another explosion, and I really freaked out.

KENYON: She points us over at her son talking to another journalist as she ponders the question of why here, why now. Some wondered if it was a message to the Christian supporters of the current anti-Syrian government not to get on the buses waiting to take them to tomorrow's rally in Beirut. It's not a question Tanya Korry wants to deal with right now. The images of the carnage outside are still too fresh in her mind.

Ms. KORRY: (Through translator) I mean, to die and maybe people not knowing who that person was because the body was badly mutilated. I just want to live, and nobody has the right to take that life away from me. Nobody, except God.

KENYON: Outside, politicians faced the microphones beneath the rains battered umbrellas and resolutely called for calm. Former lawmaker and presidential candidate Nasib Lahoud said after two years of political assassinations, beginning with Hariri and continuing with the murder of anti-Syrian politicians and journalists, the attackers have trained their bloody sides on innocent civilians.

Mr. NASIB LAHOUD: Of course, somebody is trying to provoke sectarian bloodsheds. But I think the Lebanese will be stronger than the bloods that are being perpetrated against them. The lesson that we have to learn is that only international tribunal that we are seeking to install is the guarantee for the safety and wellbeing of the Lebanese people.

KENYON: The tribunal in question is the one already approved by the United Nations to try any defendants for the Hariri murder. Syrian officials have been implicated, and some Lebanese officials say Damascus is doing whatever it can to keep the Lebanese violent from voting to endorse the tribunal. Many people immediately linked today's bomb attack to tomorrow's rally in Hariri's memory.

But it also came just one day after parliament speaker Nabih Berri announced the working group have been formed to work on approving the tribunal, a sign of progress that analyst say may have alarmed Syria.

Lebanese forces increased their alert as preparations continue for tomorrow's rally. One of the potential flash points is Beirut's largely Christian Sassin neighborhood. Fifty-year-old Maurice Maawad(ph) said he was certain that another minister or lawmaker was about to be targeted, so he was surprised to see civilians attacked. But he accepts the theory that Damascus is growing alarmed by signs that the Lebanese opposition is working toward an agreement with the government that could lead to an international trial in the Hariri case.

Mr. MAURICE MAAWAD: (Through translator) And I think this is the Syrians. This is the Syrians and in desperation at the end. I think a solution is forthcoming. And I think we're sort of almost there. This is the reason.

KENYON: Damascus has denied involvement in any of the killings of the past two years, including Hariri's assassination. But others of Maurice Maawad's generation aren't ready to say the Syrians are desperate and out of options. They remember that Lebanon's brutal 15-year civil war was sparked by another bus bombing - that time carrying Palestinians. For ordinary Lebanese, the challenge for their leaders is to keep today's explosions from sparking another war.

Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Beirut.

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