| Gebran Tueni
Beirut, Dec. 12 (Reuters): A car bomb killed Lebanese newspaper magnate and anti-Syrian lawmaker Gebran Tueni in Beirut today, a day after he returned from Paris where he had based himself in recent months out of fear of assassination.
Several Lebanese politicians immediately blamed Syria, which denied any role and said the killing was timed to smear it.
Police said Tueni, publisher of An-Nahar daily, was among four people killed in the explosion that destroyed his armoured sports utility vehicle as it was driving in the Mekalis area of mainly Christian east Beirut. Some 32 people were wounded.
The bodies of Tueni, 48, his driver and a bodyguard were found in his car, charred beyond recognition. Assault rifles and military bags lay beside them inside the vehicle.
A previously unknown group calling itself “Strugglers for the Unity and Freedom of the Levant” claimed responsibility for the killing in a statement, saying the same fate awaited other opponents of “Arabism” in Lebanon.
There was no way to verify the authenticity of the claim. Some observers suggested the wording could be designed to cast suspicion on Damascus.
Security sources said a parked car packed with up to 100 kg of dynamite was detonated by remote control as Tueni’s car passed by. Tueni’s car was hurled from the road and landed in a different street dozens of metres away.
“I heard a deafening explosion and when I looked up I saw a car flying in the air,” one passerby said.
Tueni was killed just hours before the UN Security Council was due to receive a report by chief UN investigator Detlev Mehlis, who has been trying to identify those behind the February 14 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.
An interim report by Mehlis said the evidence pointed towards the involvement of Syrian officials and their Lebanese allies in Hariri’s killing. Syria denies this.
“This gives a new reason for our insistence on knowing the truth about who assassinated... Hariri and all martyrs... and to bring the criminals to an international tribunal,” Hariri’s son Saad, an MP, said.
Greek Orthodox churches in Beirut rang their bells and supporters gathered outside An-Nahar offices, near the site of mass protests that followed Hariri’s murder.
Hariri’s death transformed Lebanon’s political landscape, sparking a global outcry and Lebanese protests that forced Syria to pull its troops out of Lebanon after 29 years.