Lebanon reels after bomb blast, blamed on Syria


Sun, Oct 21, 2012 - Page 1

Lebanon’s Cabinet met in an emergency session yesterday as scattered protests erupted around the country, a day after a top security official was killed in a car bombing blamed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Yesterday was declared a day of mourning and Internal Security Forces (ISF) intelligence head General Wissam al-Hassan is to be buried today alongside former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, murdered in a car bombing seven years ago.

The anti-Syrian opposition, led by Hariri’s son Saad, called for a massive turnout for the funeral, which is to be held after Muslim prayers at the al-Amine Mosque in Beirut’s center.

Al-Hassan, who investigated the murder of the elder Hariri in a still-unsolved crime widely blamed on Syria, was among at least three people killed in Friday’s powerful rush-hour explosion in Ashrafieh, an upmarket mostly Christian district of Beirut.

The bombing drew condemnation from abroad, with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton calling it a “dangerous sign that there are those who continue to seek to undermine Lebanon’s stability.”

Iran yesterday condemned the bombing, blaming it on Israel.

“Undoubtedly, the main enemy of the Lebanese people and the region is the Zionist regime which benefits from instability and lack of security in the region,” spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in a statement on the Iranian Foreign Ministry Web site

Protesters blocked some roads in Beirut, Sidon in the south, Tripoli in the north and the Bekaa Valley in the east.

On Friday, official figures put the death toll at eight, but the ISF and the Red Cross both lowered the figure yesterday.

The ISF put the number hurt at 80 in a blast that ripped through a busy square in the district where al-Hassan lived, and the Red Cross said it was 110.

The site, a mass of rubble and twisted metal, remained blocked off and investigators were sifting through the damage.

Both Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt, an influential Druze leader, accused the Syrian president of being behind the bombing.

“We accuse Bashar al-Assad of the assassination of Wissam al-Hassan, the guarantor of the security of the Lebanese,” Hariri said.

Jumblatt said that “the Syrian regime is expert in political assassinations. Our response needs to be political. A president who burns Syria and is the executioner of Damascus does not care if Lebanon burns.”