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Bomb Blast Kills Anti-Syrian Politician in Beirut

  • Carrie Giardino

A car bomb went off early Tuesday morning in a suburb of Beirut killing a well-known political figure, just two days after the conclusion of parliamentary elections in Lebanon.

Within an hour of the blast, Prime Minister Najib Mikati appeared on national television confirming the identity of the victim as the former leader of the Lebanese Communist Party, George Hawi.

Prime Minister Mikati also said the Lebanese people are "stunned" by this, the second car bombing to kill a prominent figure in Beirut in the past month. Anti-Syrian journalist for the An Nahar daily newspaper, Samir Kassir was killed in a similar bombing on June 2 in another suburb of Beirut.

Although that bombing is still being investigated, many reports indicated that a bomb had been placed under the driver's seat in Mr. Kassir's car and detonated by remote control, killing him instantly.

Witnesses and police at Tuesday's bombing say the bomb was placed under the passenger's seat of Mr. Hawi's Mercedes Benz, killing Mr. Hawi instantly as his driver attempted to escape. The driver was not killed.

The car was reportedly traveling in the neighborhood of Mr. Hawi's home and witnesses report the car was still moving when the bomb went off. Initial reports point to a remote control triggered bomb and officials believe a similar device was used to kill Mr. Kassir earlier this month.

The bombing comes less than two days after the end of the parliamentary elections in Lebanon allotting a majority of the seats to an anti-Syrian coalition headed by Saad Hariri, whose father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was also killed in a bombing in February.

Mr. Hawi, a Christian who was a Syrian ally for years, recently joined the anti-Syrian opposition criticizing Syria's involvement in Lebanon. Many say these bombings are an attempt by Syria to silence their critics. Syria has staunchly denied any involvement in the bombings and the United Nations has sent teams to Lebanon to investigate.

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