Bomb in Lebanon kills a top critic of Syria, Hezbolah

BEIRUT, Lebanon — A powerful car bomb killed a prominent Lebanese politician critical of Syria and its ally Hezbollah and five others on Friday, hitting his SUV as it drove through a ritzy business district near Beirut's waterfront.

Allies of Mohammed Chatah, a former finance minister and ambassador to the United States, indirectly blamed the Shiite Hezbollah group for the bombing, raising tensions in Lebanon at a time when the country's factions are already deeply at odds over the civil war in neighboring Syria.

Chatah, 62, was killed along with his driver and four others, the National News Agency reported. The Health Ministry said at least 70 people were wounded.

Lebanon has had only a weak and ineffectual caretaker government since April, with the two main political blocs unable or unwilling to reach a compromise to form a new Cabinet.

Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a Sunni, heads the main, Western-backed coalition in Lebanon, known as the March 14 alliance. Hezbollah, which enjoys the support of Syria and Iran and commands a militia stronger than the national military, leads those on the other side of Lebanon's political divide.

There was no claim of responsibility for Friday's attack, but the bombing was reminiscent of a string of assassinations of around a dozen members of the anti-Syrian Hariri camp that shook Lebanon between 2004 and 2008. Hariri said those responsible for Friday's bombing are "the same ones who are opening the doors of evil and chaos into Lebanon" and "brought regional fires to our country," in a clear reference to Hezbollah's armed intervention in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Hezbollah strongly denounced Chatah's assassination, saying it serves "the enemies of Lebanon."

Flames engulf vehicles at the scene of an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on Friday. A prominent politician was killed along with his driver and four others.

Associated Press

Flames engulf vehicles at the scene of an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on Friday. A prominent politician was killed along with his driver and four others.

Bomb in Lebanon kills a top critic of Syria, Hezbolah 12/27/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 27, 2013 10:47pm]

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