Lebanon bomb ‘linked to Syria war’
LEBANON’S prime minister yesterday linked the massive car bomb that tore through Beirut to the civil war in neighbouring Syria, in the latest signal that the crisis is inflaming an already tense region.
Friday’s bomb in the heart of the Christian area in the east of the city killed eight people, including Lebanon’s intelligence chief, Brigadier-General Wissam al-Hassan.
The Hezbollah-led government declared a day of mourning yesterday as protesters took to the streets, burning tyres and setting up roadblocks in anger over the bomb attack.
Prime minister Najib Mikati said the explosion was linked to Hassan’s recent investigation, in which he exposed an alleged plot by Syria to unleash a campaign of bombings to sow chaos in Lebanon.
“I don’t want to prejudge the investigation, but we cannot separate this crime from the revelation of the explosions that could have happened,” Mikati said after an emergency cabinet meeting.
Lebanon’s fractious politics are entwined with Syria’s. The countries share a web of political and sectarian ties and rivalries, often causing events on one side of the border to echo on the other. Lebanon’s opposition is an anti-Syrian bloc, while the prime minister and much of the government are seen as pro-Syrian.
Hassan’s investigation over the summer led to the arrest of former information minister Michel Samaha, one of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s most loyal allies in Lebanon. Samaha is accused of plotting a wave of attacks to spread sectarian violence in Lebanon. Also indicted in the August sweep was Syrian Brigadier-General Ali Mamlouk, one of Assad’s highest aides. He was charged in absentia.
Mikati also said he had offered to resign over the bombing, but the president asked him not to plunge Lebanon into more uncertainty. Mikati suggested a national unity government and president Michel Suleiman again urged him to hold talks with political leaders.
Mikati is facing huge political pressure over the attack. Friday’s violence and subsequent protests threaten to plunge Lebanon back into the dark cycle of bombings and reprisals that typified its 1975-90 civil war.
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