Lebanese anti-Syrian MP killed in Beirut car bomb

Staunch anti-Syrian lawmaker and journalist Gebran Tueni was killed Monday when an explosion hit his convoy as it made its way through Beirut. At least four people were killed in the blast, security sources said. 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. 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. 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. He [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, 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. 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. Witnesses at the scene said that the force of the blast hurled the bullet-proof car off the road. Shattered glass covered the streets while a heavy black smoke was seen bilowing over the area. Anti-Syria 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 the An-Nahar newspaper, 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 explosion Monday came hours after chief UN investigator Detlev Mehlis submitted his report to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on the investigation. 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. In an earlier report in October, Mehlis implicated Syrian and allied Lebanese opfficials in the truck bombing that killed Hariri and 20 others in downtown Beirut.