BEIRUT (Web Desk) – At least 37 people have been killed in two suicide bombings in a busy area of a southern Beirut suburb that is a stronghold of Lebanese Hezbollah, the Lebanese interior minister has said.

Nouhad Machnouk said the attackers were on foot and wearing explosive vests when they set off the blasts in the Borj al-Barajneh area, in which at least 40 people were injured, the Guardian reported.

Police said the two men had detonated their suicide vests in front of a shopping centre at around 6pm local time.

Lebanese army and civilians gather near the site of a twin suicide attack in Burj al-Barajneh, southern Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015 that struck a Shiite suburb killed and wounded dozens, a Lebanese official said. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Security forces were trying to cordon off the scene and prevent people from gathering.

The blast was the first to target Beirut’s southern suburbs since June 2014, when a suicide car bombing killed a security officer. Before that, a string of attacks had targeted Hezbollah strongholds throughout Lebanon.

Between July 2013 and February 2014, there were nine attacks on Hezbollah bastions, most claimed by Sunni extremists.

The groups claimed the attacks were in revenge for Hezbollah’s decision to send thousands of fighters into neighbouring Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against a Sunni-dominated uprising.