Da Ha'aretz del 12/12/2005
Originale su http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/656842.html

Lebanese anti-Syrian MP killed in Beirut car bomb

Staunch anti-Syrian lawmaker and journalist Gebran Tueni and two others were killed Monday when an explosion hit his convoy as it made its way through Beirut, a day after he returned from France, where he had been staying periodically for fear of assassination.

The blast destroyed the armored car as it was driving in the Mekalis area, a Christian eastern suburb that lies a few kilometers from the headquarters of the United Nations team investigating the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri in February.

At least three people inside the car were killed, their bodies charred beyond recognition, witnesses said.

A previously unknown group later in the day claimed responsibility for the attack, although there was no way to verify the authenticity of the statement.

In a statement faxed to Reuters bearing no insignia or letterhead, the group calling itself "Strugglers for the Unity and Freedom of the Levant", said the same fate awaited other opponents of "Arabism" in Lebanon.

"We have broken the pen of Gebran Tueni and shut his mouth forever and transformed al-Nahar into a very dark night," it said, referring to the newspaper Tueni published.

"We have succeeded today again in liquidating another of the mouthpieces that have ... spread their poison and lies and not stopped despite the warnings we have sent him time and again."

Tueni was a firebrand critic of Syria who was elected to parliament in this year's election.

Lebanese Druze leader and anti-Syrian MP Walid Jumblatt confirmed Tueni's death and accused Syria of killing him. Jumblatt's opinion is shared by many in the Middle East.

Asked if he was jumping the gun by accusing Syria, he told Al Jazeera television: "This is my reading of the situation. We've had enough killings, enough assassinations. [Tueni] was targeted because he was the voice of freedom, him and others like him."

Syria said later that the timing of the explosion indicated an intention to damage Damascus' reputation.

In a statement carried by its official news agency SANA, Syria denounced the "bombing that took place in the Mekalis suburb of Beirut... whose timing is intended to direct accusations to Syria."

"Syria is pained over the bombings and assassinations that target the security of Lebanon," said the news agency.

SANA said those who level such accusations against Syria "are completing the work of the criminals who carry out bombings in Lebanon and targeting Syria, Lebanon and the truth."


Monday was also the day the United Nations released its report on the probe into the assassination of another prominent Lebanese politician, Rafik Hariri. The report on the investigation headed by Detlev Mehlis into Hariri's February murder named five Syrian officials as suspects in the crime, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law may also be implicated.

Mehlis' report also crticized Syria for foot-dragging during the investigation, and called for the probe to be extended another six months.

Following the Tueni murder, Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora asked the UN Security Council to also investigate that incident.

"We have no option but to confront the criminals until we defeat them," Siniora said, adding that he would not bow to intimidation.

Lebanon has been rocked by a series of mysterious explosion targeting anti-Syrian figures in recent months. Media reports have linked the bombings to the investigation into Hariri's assassination as an attempt to derail the probe.


The bodies of Tueni, 48, his driver and a bodyguard were found in the car, charred beyond recognition. Assault rifles and military bags laid beside them inside the wrecked vehicle.

Security sources said a parked car packed with up to 100 kg of dynamite, more than earlier reported, 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.Shattered glass covered the streets while a heavy black smoke was seen bilowing over the area.

"I heard a deafening explosion and when I looked up I saw a car flying in the air," one passerby said.

Several cars were set ablaze and nearby shops and buildings suffered some damage in the blast. Police and soldiers cordoned off the area as rescue workers ferried casualties to hospitals. Some 38 people were reportedly wounded in the blast.

The news triggered an outpouring of grief for Tueni, a respected columnist and the general manager of Al-Nahar, the country's leading newspaper.

Bells of Orthodox churches tolled in the Christian quarter of Ashrafieh, Tueni's constituency. Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora called an emergency meeting of top security officials and asked the Cabinet to convene later Monday.

An elderly man wept openly at the scene of the bombing, pounding his head and shouting: "My God, Gebran, you were the only one who told the truth!"

At the Al-Nahar offices, staff with tears in their eyes received diplomats and other dignitaries who arrived to give their condolences. Scores of people, many of them students, gathered outside the paper's offices in downtown Beirut.


Tueni was elected as a member of parliament for the Greek Orthodox seat in Beirut in the May election on an anti-Syrian slate led by Saad Hariri, son of Rafik Hariri.

As publisher of Al-Nahar, Tueni voiced fierce criticism of Syria's domination in Lebanon since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war. He was among the most outspoken critics of Damascus and blamed it for Hariri's murder.

He said in August he had received "accurate" information that his name was on an assassination hit-list and had spent much of his time abroad since then, citing security fears.

Tueni's uncle, anti-Syrian Druze Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh, survived an assassination attempt in a car bomb in 2004.


The United States strongly condemned the assassination on Monday.

"His murder is another act of terrorism aimed at trying to subjugate Lebanon to Syrian domination," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

He called Tueni a "Lebanese patriot."

Germany also slammed the murder. "Today's attack appears to be a further attempt to sabotage the process underway leading to an independent, sovereign and democratic Lebanon," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said. "Those responsible must be countered with determination."

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