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Car Bomb Explodes in Lebanon Killing Anti-Syrian Journalist

By Michael Slackman


An outspoken Lebanese lawmaker and journalist known for his anti-Syrian views was killed in a car bomb attack Monday morning as he drove to his office, having returned here from Paris less than 24 hours earlier.

The police said an explosive-laden parked car was detonated as the legislator, Gibran Tueni, 48, drove by, killing him and his security men in a fiery blast just outside the capital that catapulted his armored car off a narrow road and into a valley.

Tueni, who had been abroad for months out of fear he would be killed here, was editor of An Nahar, Lebanon’s most important newspaper, long a voice of opposition to Syrian involvement in Lebanon.

The killing made Tueni (pronounced TWAY-nee) the latest journalist to be attacked in a string of bombings that began shortly after the former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, was killed last February. It was seen by many here as a part of a broader plan to silence the anti-Syrian media in Beirut.

The day before Tueni was killed, he was in Paris visiting with a well-known Lebanese television anchorwoman, May Chidiac, who had survived a car bomb attack as well.

“This tragic assassination is today the latest in a vicious campaign against Lebanese citizens, journalists, political leaders and their right to freedom of expression,” the U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan SM ’72, said in a statement. The assassination of Tueni occurred just hours before the German prosecutor leading the U.N. investigation into Hariri’s killing presented Security Council members with an update on his findings, which continue to point at Syria and its security institutions as being behind the assassination.

In Damascus, the Syrian government vehemently denied any connection to this or any of the killings in Lebanon of the last year. The Syrian new media said those responsible were probably Israeli agents or those around Saad Hariri, the son of the slain prime minister and a leader of the Lebanese political movement that arose after the assassination.

In Lebanon, the killing of Tueni further burdened a population that is increasingly freighted and fatigued by such violence, and aggravated the fault lines that run through the governing coalition. While the government called on the U.N. Security Council to create an international tribunal to try suspects in the Hariri case and to investigate the bombings that followed, pro-Syrian ministers announced they were suspending their participation in the government.

“We object to the principle of internationalizing all Lebanese files,” Energy Minister Muhammad Fneish told reporters. He is a member of Hezbollah, a radical Islamic party that has long had Syrian support.

On the street, protesters gathered in the square outside An Nahar’s offices newspaper — the square that filled with tens of thousands of people after Hariri was killed by a car bomb. At one point protesters booed anyone perceived as pro-Syrian, while a student speaker encouraged Lebanese of all factions to stay united.

“If Bashar Assad were watching you guys booing,” a student leader said to the crowd, referring to the President Bashar Assad of Syria.