BEIRUT - An explosion rocked central Beirut during rush hour on Friday, killing at least one and wounding several others, witnesses said.

The cause was not immediately clear. Ambulances rushed to the scene in the Ashafriyeh district, a mostly Christian area.

Smoke was seen rising from the area of the blast, which occurred at a time of heightened tension between Lebanese political factions on opposite sides of the Syria conflict.

Police confirmed the explosion but had no further details. There was no word on casualties.

The war in neighbouring Syria has pitted mostly Sunni insurgents against President Bashar al-Assad, an Awalite linked to Shi'ite Islam.

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