A car bomb exploded in a Christian suburb Wednesday as the defense minister drove by, killing at least eight people and hurling the minister's armor-plated car upside down onto the sidewalk, authorities said.

At least 21 people, including the minister, were reported injured.The attack occurred a day before the deadline for Christian and Muslim militia groups to disband, part of the government's plan to secure the end of a 16-year-old civil war that has claimed 130,000 lives.

It appeared aimed at disrupting a meeting on the plan by the Syrian-backed government of President Elias Hrawi. Government sources said the Cabinet was expected to issue an ultimatum for the militias to lay down their guns.

Defense Minister Michel Murr, a Christian, suffered slight neck and head wounds in the blast. In a statement, his ministry said the force of the blast overturned his black Mercedes and landed it on the sidewalk.

Murr was treated and continued on to the meeting. In a live radio interview afterward, he said such attacks "will not hinder" government efforts to rid the nation of lawless militias.

Police said eight people were killed and 21 wounded in the morning rush hour blast in the Antelias suburb. Murr said one of his bodyguards was among the dead.

The others killed were not immediately identified, but among those hurt were three soldiers and 17 civilian motorists, police said.

Antelias, 21/2 miles north of the city center, is within the boundaries of the newly reunited capital and is policed by the regular army and police.

The car bombing, a frequent phenomenon during the civil war, was the first this year.