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Bomb in Lebanon Kills Christian Member of Parliament


A powerful car bomb, targeting a pro-government Christian member of parliament, exploded in an east Beirut suburb, killing the legislator and six other people and wounding some 20 others. Edward Yeranian reports for the VOA from Beirut.

Red Cross workers pulled victims from burning vehicles as thick plumes of black smoke covered several blocks of a Beirut residential neighborhood, following the explosion of a powerful car bomb.

Eyewitnesses say that Christian member of parliament Antoine Ghanem, the probable target of the bombing, was killed instantly.

A major road, filled with rush hour traffic appeared pocked and cratered from the explosion, with vehicles blown apart and chunks of concrete from surrounding buildings littering the sidewalk.

In Washington, White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino strongly condemned what she called the "vicious murder" of Antoine Ghanem.

"Since October 2004, there has been a pattern of political assassinations and attempted assassinations designed to intimidate those working courageously toward a sovereign and democratic Lebanon," she said. "The victims of these cowardly attacks have consistently been those who publicly sought to end Syria's interference in Lebanon's internal affairs. It is no coincidence that this attack comes as Lebanon prepares to elect a new president. And the United States will continue to stand by those Lebanese who continue to courageously stand up for democracy and independence."

Wednesday's explosion took place one week before Lebanon's parliament is scheduled to meet to elect a new president to replace outgoing President Emile Lahoud, who is pro-Syrian.

Antoine Ghanem was a member of the pro-government Christian Kataeb Party. He is the fourth member of parliament and the eighth figure from the anti-Syrian majority to have been killed in the last two years.

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al Hariri was killed by a massive explosion on February 14, 2005. His son, a legislator who leads the anti-Syrian movement, has openly accused Syria of Mr. Hariri's killing.

In November, government minister Pierre Gemayal was gunned down on his way church. He was also against Syrian involvement in Lebanon.

Talks between the anti-Syrian majority and the pro-Syrian Hezbollah group and its allies have stalled, and the Beirut media has been speculating that Hezbollah might boycott the presidential election, blocking the formation of the necessary two-thirds quorum.

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