Former Lebanese minister Mohamad Chatah, who opposed Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, was killed in a massive bomb blast yesterday which one of his political allies blamed on the Shi’ite Hezbollah militia.
The attack in Beirut killed five other people and threw Lebanon, which has been drawn into neighbouring Syria’s conflict, into further turmoil after a series of sectarian bombings aimed at Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims over the past year.
Former prime minister Saad al-Hariri accused Hezbollah of involvement in the killing of Chatah, his 62-year-old political adviser, saying it was “a new message of terrorism”.
“As far as we are concerned the suspects ... are those who are fleeing international justice and refusing to represent themselves before the international tribunal,” Hariri said, referring to the upcoming trial in The Hague of five Hezbollah members suspected of killing his father Rafik in 2005.
US secretary of state John Kerry said: “This is a terrible loss for Lebanon, the Lebanese people and for the United States.”
United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon condemned the bomb attack, and the 15-member Security Council expressed its “unequivocal condemnation of any attempt to destabilise Lebanon through political assassinations”.
The explosion destroyed Chatah’s car and injured another 71 people. It took place not far from where the elder Hariri, a former prime minister and influential Sunni figure, was assassinated by a huge bomb in Feb 2005.
The long-delayed trial of five Hezbollah suspects indicted for that attack, which also killed 21 other people, is due to open in The Hague in three weeks.
The suspects are all fugitives and Hezbollah, which denies any role in the Hariri assassination, has refused to cooperate with the court.
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