Blast rocks north Beirut suburb

The blast hit a mixed residential and commercial area

At least two people were injured when an explosion took place in the Zalka suburb of the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

The blast, which could be heard several kilometres away, occurred outside a hotel and shopping centre in the mainly Christian area of the city.

The cause of the blast is not yet known but the BBC's Kim Ghattas in Beirut says initial reports say it was a bomb.

Lebanon has been hit by a series of bombings since the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Previous attacks
The blast caused extensive damage, shattering windows and sending a black pall of smoke into the night sky, witnesses said.

"I was sitting on the balcony with my children when we saw a flash and heard a loud noise," local resident Fadi Yacoub told Reuters.

"The kids fell about screaming. We were all covered with dust and broken glass."

Our correspondent says that Zalka is a mixed residential and commercial area, which is also home to a number of cafes, including a Starbucks.

There have been a wave of bomb attacks since Mr Hariri's death in February this year, some targeting politicians, both for and against Syrian influence in Lebanon and others aimed at Christian areas of the city late at night, our correspondent says.