(Updates death toll, adds background)
BEIRUT, Jan 16 (Reuters) - A suicide car bomber killed himself and three other people, and wounded 26 in a Hezbollah stronghold on Lebanon's northern border with Syria on Thursday, residents and state media said.
The car bomb went off near a local government building in the centre of Hermel, a town at the northern end of Lebanon's Bekaa Valley in a predominantly Shi'ite Muslim area, shattering windows and damaging nearby buildings.
A Reuters photographer said he saw body parts strewn across the street and people with shrapnel wounds in the area of the blast, outside a building that houses local government offices. Hospitals were calling on people to give blood, he said.
Violence from the civil war in Syria has spilled over into the Mediterranean country and Shi'ite group Hezbollah, Lebanon's most powerful military and political movement, has sent fighters and advisers to aid ally President Bashar al-Assad, a member of the Alawite minority, in his battle with mainly Sunni rebels.
Hezbollah-controlled areas in Lebanon have been targeted by a series of bombings and rocket attacks claimed by hardline Sunni militants. Four car bombs have exploded in Hezbollah's stronghold in southern Beirut since July.
Lebanon's National News Agency said at least four people were killed in the blast including the suicide bomber and said another 26 were wounded. A security source confirmed the death toll.
The attack occurred shortly before an international tribunal began a trial in absentia of four Hezbollah members accused of planning a car bombing that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in 2005.
The trial in the Hague is highly contentious in Lebanon, but its political fallout has been overshadowed by the increasingly sectarian war in Syria over the past three years. (Reporting by Alexander Dziadosz and Erika Solomon; Writing by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Elizabeth Piper)
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.