Car bombing kills anti-Syrian lawmaker, 9 others in Beirut

1159.jpgA POWERFUL CAR bomb killed anti-Syrian Lebanese politician Walid Eido and nine other people on Wednesday in an attack his colleagues blamed on Damascus, Reuters reported.A parked sports utility vehicle packed with 60 to 80kg of explosives b

lew up as Eido’s car drove near Beirut’s seafront, a senior security source said.

One of the parliamentarian’s sons and two bodyguards were among the dead. At least 11 people were wounded.

Eido, 64, belonged to the majority anti-Syrian parliamentary bloc of Saad Hariri, which controls the government.

A Sunni Muslim lawyer, he had been an opponent of Syrian influence in Lebanon and an ally of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, who was assassinated by a suicide truck bomber in February 2005 on the same seafront just over a kilometre away.

Eido was killed just three days after a UN Security Council resolution c

ame into effect setting up an international tribunal to try suspects in Hariri’s assassination.

Saad Hariri says Syria was behind his father’s killing and later attacks. Damascus denies any involvement. Eido’s death brought to seven the number of anti-Syrian figures killed in Lebanon since 2005.

“It is the same fingers that assassinated the martyred premier Rafiq Hariri… the fingers of evil and its evil agents that plant terror in Lebanon,” Hariri said of Eido’s killing. “They don’t want Lebanon to rest.” There was no immediate comment from Syria. Its allies in Lebanon denounced the assassination.

Hariri urged people to turn out in force for the funerals of Eido and the other victims on Thursday.

Jordan, the United States, France, Britain and the European Union strongly condemned the killing.

In a letter to Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, King Abdullah reiterated that “Jordan firmly stands by Lebanon to overcome its difficult conditions”, according to the Jordan News Agency, Petra.

Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said: “We stand with the people of Lebanon and Prime Minister [Fuad] Siniora’s government as they battle extremists who are trying to derail Lebanon’s march to peace, prosperity and a lasting democracy.”

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said his country stood by Lebanon “in the face of these repeated attempts at destabilisation”. He urged the Lebanese to resume dialogue.

‘Big, ugly cloud’

 The blast hit near an amusement park and a football club, setting a car ablaze and shattering windows at a nearby restaurant. It hurled the bodies of Eido and his son across the road and into the football ground, witnesses said.

“It sounded like it was in your backyard,” said Herbert Lahout, 45, a US citizen who had been playing volleyball on a nearby beach. “It was like a mushroom cloud, a big ugly cloud.” Five less powerful bombs have exploded in and around Beirut in the past month, killing two people.

Eido’s death was likely to fuel tension between Siniora’s Western-backed government and the pro-Damascus opposition led by the Shiite Hizbollah group.

Parliament member Wael Abou-Faour accused Syria of killing his colleague.

“Walid Eido was assassinated because there is a decision by the Syrian regime to terminate the March 14 bloc,” Abou-Faour told Al Arabiya television, referring to the Hariri-led coalition.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a Shiite opponent of the government, condemned the killing, as did Hizbollah and Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun.

Tension was already high in Lebanon, where the army has been battling Islamist fighters at a Palestinian refugee camp in the north for more than three weeks.

Two Lebanese soldiers were killed in fresh fighting at the Nahr Bared camp on Wednesday, security sources said.

Al Qaeda-inspired Fateh Islam gunmen attacked Lebanese army posts set up at newly seized territory in the outskirts of Nahr Bared overnight and in the early morning, they said.

Army units, which had seized two militant positions in heavy fighting on Tuesday, responded with dozens of artillery rounds, sending smoke rising from the camp’s cinderblock buildings.

The battle for the camp, Lebanon’s bloodiest internal violence since the 1975-1990 civil war, has killed 144 people — 62 soldiers, 50 militants and 32 civilians — since May 20.

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