News / Middle East

    Beirut Car Bomb Kills Ex-Minister Chatah

    Lebanon: Hezbollah Suspected in Beirut Bombingi
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    December 27, 2013 6:29 PM
    Lebanese officials suspect militant group Hezbollah is behind Friday's killing of former Finance Minister Mohamad Chatah and at least four others. VOA's Jeff Custer has more.
    VIDEO: Lebanese officials suspect militant group Hezbollah is behind Friday's killing of former Finance Minister Mohamad Chatah and at least four others. VOA's Jeff Custer has more.
    Edward Yeranian
    A car bomb has killed Lebanon's former ambassador to the United States, former finance minister Mohamad Chatah. At least four others were killed in the explosion and dozens wounded. 
     
    Black smoke billowed into the skies over the Lebanese capital, Beirut, following the blast in the historic city center.

    Chatah, a Sunni Muslim, was a respected economist and senior advisor to ex-Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
     
    The explosion, which targeted Chatah, occurred near the site of a 2005 blast that killed Hariri's father, Rafiq al-Hariri. Both blasts shattered windows and blew chunks of concrete from buildings within a wide radius.
     
    Hariri indirectly accused the Shi'ite Hezbollah militia for the assassination.

    “Those who killed Mohamad Chatah,” he said, “are those who killed (former prime minister) Rafiq al-Hariri, and they want to kill Lebanon, as well.” 
     
    There was no immediate response from Hezbollah, which also has a dominant political wing in Lebanon. 
     
    Former prime minister Fouad Siniora, who is a close ally of Hariri, accused both Syria and Hezbollah of Chatah's assassination:
     
    Chatah criticized both Syria and Hezbollah in a Twitter post that appeared an hour before he was killed. The pro-Iranian Hezbollah militia has been accused of other bombings in Lebanon in recent years.
     
    A top Hezbollah commander was assassinated by gunmen several weeks ago, while the Iranian embassy in Beirut suffered extensive damage from a blast last month.
     
    In a recent speech, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah vowed that his group would “exact revenge at the appropriate time.”

    Story continues below photo gallery:
    • Civilians, soldiers and policemen gather at the site of an explosion in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Dec. 27, 2013, that killed former finance minister Mohamad Chata.
    • Forensic inspectors examine the site of an explosion in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Dec. 27, 2013.
    • Lebanese firefighters extinguish burned vehicles at the scene of an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Dec. 27, 2013.
    • A view of a crater that was caused by an explosion in the downtown area of Beirut, Lebanon, Dec. 27, 2013.
    • Lebanese police detain a suspect at the site of an explosion in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Dec. 27, 2013.
    • A security officer fires his pistol as smoke rises from the site of an explosion in the downtown area of Beirut, Lebanon, Dec. 27, 2013.
    • A Lebanese army soldier gestures as he runs near the site of an explosion in the downtown area of Beirut, Lebanon, Dec. 27, 2013.
    • A Lebanese Army soldier stands next to a destroyed car at the scene of an explosion in central Beirut, Lebanon, Dec. 27, 2013.
    Caretaker Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn told a Lebanese television channel that approximately 50 to 60 kilograms of explosives were used in Friday's bombing. Ghosn said surveillance cameras in the area of the blast would likely yield details about who was responsible for it.
     
    Outgoing Interior Minister Marwan Charbel expressed his condolences to victims of the blast and went on to say that the country's leaders needed to settle their differences peacefully:
     
    "The only solution is for everyone to sit down together and discuss their differences," Charbel said.
     
    Former Lebanese president Amine Gemayel lauded Chatah, calling him a man of “moderation, wisdom and dialogue.”
     
    Gemayel went on to tell Sky News Arabia that Lebanon is like a boat, and that “We are all on the boat, so if it capsizes, we all go down with it.”
     
    National dialogue talks are due to resume at the presidential palace Saturday. 
     
    Friday's bombing occurred just days before four Hezbollah members go on trial at a United Nations-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is investigating the Rafiq al-Hariri assassination. 

    VOA correspondent Margaret Besheer, who is in Beirut, said many observers saw the 62-year-old Chatah as an unlikely assassination target.

    "He is not a current member of the government. He's not a deputy in the parliament. He's not a current minister," Besheer said. "When we've seen assassinations in Lebanon in the recent past, it's usually active members of government who are targeted or major political figures from important families."

    Yara Zeitoun, who is in Beirut on vacation, told VOA she just missed walking in front of the bomb site as the explosion happened.  She said the damage to the area is extensive.

    "We're two buildings away from the scene, and we had debris fall all over our apartment from the ceiling and from outside. Dust dust blew in everywhere in the house. It was just a monumental sound," she said.

    No one has claimed responsibility.  But Lebanon has seen a recent increase in violence related to Syria's civil war that has spilled over the border.
     

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Bob from: Germany
    December 30, 2013 7:05 AM
    Unfortunately this event and daily killing of syrian people are indirect effects of President Obama who is interested in making new ties with Iran and has stopped it's pressure on Assad regime.Me ,individually ,believe that Mr.Obama is responsible ,up to a point ,in such evidences.

    by: Bernita S. from: Canada
    December 28, 2013 12:48 PM
    hey guys... there is no "democracy" in Lebanon...!!! I have lived in Lebanon for 5 years. Let me tell you that Lebanon is an empty shell. Its has no sovereignty. There are no legitimate Courts in Lebanon... the "Army" is just a bunch of thugs... the only real power in Lebanon is a brutal terrorist Iranian organization - Hezbullah. I used to pay my "Taxes" directly to Hezbullah. My "taxes" were assessed arbitrarily... if you do not pay your "taxes" your children are kidnapped, mutilated and raped. I hate to say that, but the only force Hezbullah is in fear of is Israel not America. The international community is incompetent, the USA - well you know the USA are a bunch of idiots... so, the only legitimate power who can affect the drastic change needed in Lebanon and the Middle East is Israel. but we all know that Israel is the American dog... and the US is headed by an incompetent Idiot... so don't hold your breath...

    by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
    December 27, 2013 8:29 PM
    Those who assassinated Hariri and Chatah in Lebanon are the one and the same terrorists who are in control of southern Lebanon. Assassination of Chatah is a deliberate act of terrorism by Hezbollah to spread the war in Syria into Lebanon and tople the democracy in Lebanon. While the Security Council is incapable to act directly in the Syrian war, Hezbollah is emboldened by their recent success in the war front in Syria in concert with Assad, Al Qaeda, Iran and Russia. The day is not far off the fall of Lebanon, while US and European allies are scared to confront the state sponsored terrorism in Syria. As long as President Obama remain in power, the US will be degenerated to a paper tiger in the world without the will power to stand up against terrorism in general of Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda, Taliban and Muslim fundamentalist terrorists of all shades, and the state terrorism sponsored of Iran and Pakistan.

    by: Muhammed from: Turkey
    December 27, 2013 4:53 PM
    I like reading news on VOA because you give the daily news briefly enough which saves me time . I also listen to your latest news and I would appreciate it very much if you also can put the transcript of that five minute latest news on your website.



    by: Sunny Enwerem from: Abeokuta Nigeria
    December 27, 2013 3:13 PM
    Why the West sits and watch the moderate leaders get killed for believing in a common ideal with the West marvel me ,Israel is the only hope of putting the Hezbollah killers on check and its about time an all out war by the International community to bring an end to their evil act by force, this are acts that makes it very necessary for Assad to leave power and syria or be killed to save a wide middle east.

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