Gunmen posing as army soldiers on Sunday shot and killed the head of one of the principal Lebanese Christian clans, Dany Chamoun, and his wife and two sons at their home in east Beirut. Chamoun, whose father was president of Lebanon from 1952 to 1958, was a close associate of Gen. Michel Aoun, the rebellious Christian military leader who was forced to surrender to the government on Oct. 13 and has taken refuge in the French Embassy.
The general's surrender after an attack by Syrian and Lebanese army troops was hailed by Lebanese leaders as a sign that prospects were improving for a peaceful settlement of Lebanon's 15-year-old civil war.
But Sunday's killing, for which no group claimed responsibility, raised concern that a new round of violence might erupt between rival Christian factions and possibly between Christian forces and the Syrian army.
Chamoun, 56, inherited his political career and the presidency of the National Liberal Party, a rightist Christian group, from his father, Camille, who died in 1987.
He was a staunch supporter and adviser of Aoun, who fought against the Syrian-backed government of President Elias Hrawi.
Chamoun was also a rival to the hard-line Christian militia leader Samir Geagea, who fought Aoun early this year for the military leadership of the Christian community, and lost.
After Aoun's surrender, Chamoun refused to escape to an area north of Beirut held by his enemies, preferring to stay at home in the east Beirut suburb of Baabda under protection of pro-Syrian Lebanese army soldiers, his neighbors said.
Security officials said a dozen gunmen in camouflage uniforms surrounded the apartment building where Chamoun lived at 7:10 a.m. Sunday.
Some of them burst into his fifth-floor apartment and riddled him with bullets as soon as he answered their knock at the door.
Then they fired their silencer-equipped pistols and machine guns at his wife, Ingrid; their two sons, Tarek, 5, and Jerome, 7; and their 11-month-old daughter, Tamara. The infant girl was wounded but survived.
Hrawi, visiting Syria, called his headquarters in east Beirut and expressed sorrow and regret over the incident, official sources said.
Prime Minister Selim Hoss, a Sunni Moslem, denounced the killing and said it would not be allowed to undermine the government's attempt to unify the country, "a process of peace and reconciliation."