News / Middle East

Lebanese Ex-Minister Buried to Anti-Hezbollah Chants

Omar Chatah, son of former Lebanese minister Mohamad Chatah, who was killed in a bomb blast on Friday, stands next to his father's coffin during his mass funeral at al-Amin mosque in Martyrs' Square in downtown Beirut, Dec. 29, 2013.Omar Chatah, son of former Lebanese minister Mohamad Chatah, who was killed in a bomb blast on Friday, stands next to his father's coffin during his mass funeral at al-Amin mosque in Martyrs' Square in downtown Beirut, Dec. 29, 2013.
x
Omar Chatah, son of former Lebanese minister Mohamad Chatah, who was killed in a bomb blast on Friday, stands next to his father's coffin during his mass funeral at al-Amin mosque in Martyrs' Square in downtown Beirut, Dec. 29, 2013.
Omar Chatah, son of former Lebanese minister Mohamad Chatah, who was killed in a bomb blast on Friday, stands next to his father's coffin during his mass funeral at al-Amin mosque in Martyrs' Square in downtown Beirut, Dec. 29, 2013.
Reuters
Mourners chanting anti-Hezbollah slogans laid to rest former Lebanese minister Mohamad Chatah on Sunday after he was killed by a car bomb his allies blame on the powerful Shi'ite group.
    
Friday's attack on Chatah, a Sunni who was a vocal critic of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Lebanese ally Hezbollah, has once again stoked sectarian enmities exacerbated by the spillover of Syria's conflict.
    
"There is no God but God and Hezbollah is the enemy of God," mourners chanted as Chatah's coffin - draped in green and gold cloth - was carried to a central Beirut mosque.
    
No group has claimed responsibility for the bombing which killed Chatah and six others. It was the latest in a series of attacks on both sides of the divide in Lebanon, where the government is paralyzed by a standoff along sectarian lines.
    
Chatah's Future movement and other Sunni groups support the largely Sunni Muslim rebel movement fighting to topple Assad. Iranian-backed Hezbollah has sent its fighters to help Assad, who is from the Alawite offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.
    
The burial of Chatah reflected Lebanon's tensions.
    
He was laid to rest alongside Sunni statesman Rafik Hariri, killed in a 2005 bombing just a few hundred meters (yards) from the site of the Chatah attack.
    
Addressing the cheering crowd, former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora made what mourners took to be a reference to a coming political showdown with Hezbollah, pledging peaceful action to "liberate the nation from occupation through weapons."
    
Hezbollah is the only group that kept its weapons after Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, saying they were needed for defense against Israel, but it has also become one of Lebanon's most powerful political forces.
    
'Martyr of moderation'
    
Chatah's killing, condemned by Hezbollah as a crime, would probably not trigger Sunni-Shi'ite violence, political observers said.
    
Unlike Future's leaders such as Siniora and Hariri's son Saad, whose own government was brought down by Hezbollah in 2011, Chatah was an academic and economist with no power base of his own. He had served as finance minister and as ambassador to the United States.
    
Posters hanging over the square where he was buried – where a towering Christmas tree stood next to Beirut's largest mosque - showed Chatah's face beside a red and white Lebanese flag with the words "Martyr of Moderation".
    
Michael Young, opinion editor of the local Daily Star newspaper, described the killing as a low-risk strike at Sunni groups blamed for recent car bombs that targeted the Iranian embassy and Shi'ite districts run by Hezbollah.
    
"They chose a target whose death wouldn't provoke violence," he said.
    
The killing also carried particular symbolism three weeks before a Western-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon, based in The Hague, begins the trial in absentia of five Hezbollah suspects accused of killing Rafik al-Hariri. Both Hezbollah and Syria denied accusations made in a U.N. investigation that they were behind the assassination.
    
The site of the bombing in which Chatah died, a part of the city rebuilt by Hariri after Lebanon's war, was itself meant to send a message, analyst Rami Khouri said.
    
"People will see this as a sign this violence can now happen in the heart of Hariri land just like it was happening in the heart of Hezbollah land before," he said. "Any target is now permissible in any part of the country."
    
Lebanon has been under a caretaker government since March and sectarian-fueled political squabbles have made it impossible to form a new one.
    
Hezbollah officials fear Future and its political bloc, known as March 14, are getting support from President Michel Suleiman, a Christian, to form a government which would exclude the Shi'ite group.
    
"This would be a confrontational government that would bear no resemblance to the national unity government that we have been calling for," one Hezbollah official said.

You May Like

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid