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Friday, December 27, 2013

Another assassination in Lebanon

There's been another bombing assassination in Lebanon.
A powerful explosion has rocked downtown Beirut Friday, according to the Washington Post, shattering windows and killing an unknown number of people.
It has been confirmed that former Lebanese minister Mohammed Shattah, adviser to former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and a staunch critic of Iranian-backed Hezbollah, was killed in the blast. Hariri and 21 others were killed in a car bomb attack in Beirut in February 2005 [pictured above. CiJ]; the attack was blamed on Hezbollah, and pushed sectarian tensions in the country to the brink.
The Guardian notes that Shattah, 62, is the second senior opposition figure to have been killed in the past 14 months. Figures linked to the Hariris have a history of being killed off over at least nine years, the news agency said. 
The explosion was heard at about 9:40 a.m. emanating from just behind the Four Seasons hotel in the Lebanese capital. USA Today notes that the site was just a few hundred yards from important government and parliamentary buildings. 
Reports now indicate that the explosion was from a car bomb. The engine of the car carrying the bomb was flung about 50 meters, according to the Wall Street Journal. Black smoke could be seen billowing from the area.
At least 5 people have been confirmed dead, with 15 injured; local media reports describe dead bodies littering the bomb site. The Lebanese Health Ministry has reportedly raised the number of injured to as high as 70, according to the Los Angeles Times.  
No terror group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. However, Lebanese media outlet Al-Mayadeen, which is close to Hezbollah, reported that Shattah was the target of the attack. 
In addition, several news outlets have pointed out that the attack comes just hours after Shattah posted and anti-Hezbollah tweet. Shattah was outspoken against the terror group, and its influence on the Lebanese government, reports say.
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri is blaming Hezbullah for the assassination.
"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 five Hezbollah suspects indicted for the 2005 killing of his father.
The trial of the five suspects is due to open in The Hague in January. The suspects are all fugitives and Hezbollah, which denies any role in the Hariri assassination, has refused to cooperate with the court which it says is politically motivated.
A tweet posted on his Twitter account less than an hour before the blast accused the Shi'ite movement of trying to take control of the country.
The explosion sent shock waves among residents and emptied the streets in downtown where people, seeking a respite from recent turmoil, had ventured out to enjoy the Christmas and New Year holiday period.
Sources at the explosion site said Chatah was on his way to attend a meeting at Hariri's headquarters when the explosion tore through his car. Hariri himself has stayed away from Lebanon for more than two years, fearing for his safety.
A Reuters witness at the scene said his car was "totally destroyed, it is a wreck." Chatah's identity card, torn and charred, was found inside his car.
 The more things change.... 

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