Explosion rocks Lebanese capital Beirut, ex-minister killed

An explosion rocked the Lebanese capital Beirut on Friday, causing an unknown number of casualties.

Zee Media Bureau

Beirut: A huge car bomb rocked central Beirut today, killing six people including an influential member of a coalition opposed to the Syrian regime, and leaving cars ablaze and buildings wrecked.

State news agency NNA said that Mohammad Chatah, 62, died as he headed to a meeting in the city centre of the March 14 coalition at the mansion of ex-prime minister Saad Hariri. Dozens were injured in the blast.

Chatah, an influential economist and former minister of finance and Lebanon`s envoy to Washington, had served as adviser to ex-premier Fuad Siniora and remained a close aide to his successor, Saad Hariri.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the early morning bombing, the first in recent times to have struck the commercial and banking district of Beirut, which is also home to government offices and parliament.

But Sunni leader Hariri was quick to implicate the powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah in the attack, and linked the group to his father Rafiq Hariri`s murder nearly nine years ago in another massive car bomb attack.

The ongoing conflict in Syria is said to have increased sectarian tensions in Lebanon. Lebanese Sunni Muslim fighters are said to have joined forces with rebels in Syria, who are considered mainly Sunnis. On the other hand, some of the rebels are said to be attached to al Qaeda.

Syria`s President Assad belongs to Alawite sect which is a heterodox offshoot of Shia Islam.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia militant movement, has sent fighters to Syria to back the government.
The Lebanese capital has witnessed several deadly attacks over the past months. A twin suicide bombing took place in November, the target of which was the Iranian embassy.

Chatah, who was killed today, was a Sunni Muslim.

With Agency inputs