Lebanon’s former finance minister Mohammed Chatah, an adviser to former prime minister Saad Hariri, was among the five people killed Friday in a large car bombing targeting his convoy in Beirut, Lebanese state media reported.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati called for an emergency cabinet meeting following the blast.
“We condemn this assassination which targeted a political, academic, and moderate figure who believed in dialogue and reason,” he said on Friday, adding that “it is about time our country’s sadness ended and Lebanon lives in peace and reassurance.”
He also condemned “all violent acts which only lead to more tragedy, devastation, and damage to the country.”
The large explosion rocked the Lebanese capital on Friday, near the Four Seasons Hotel, according to local media. Lebanon’s the Daily Star reported that the bombing occurred between Starco building and Monroe Hotel.
Initial reports indicated that at least 5 people were killed and dozens were injured in the explosion, according to Red Cross Operations Director George Kettaneh who spoke to the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI).
“The explosion coincided with a March 14 coalition meeting which was expected to take place at Hariri’s residence,” the Daily Star reported.
Lebanon has seen a wave of bombings over the past months as tensions rise over Syria’s civil war. The March 14 alliance has backed the Syrian opposition against the regime of Bashar Assad and has denounced Hezbollah’s role in the crisis.
The conflict next door has also raised tensions in Lebanon’s Sunni and Shiite communities as each side lines up in support of their brethren in the conflict next door.
That has fueled predictions that Lebanon, still recovering from its 15-year civil war that ended in 1990, is on the brink of descending into full-blown sectarian violence.
Chatah was one of the closest aides to former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was killed in a truck bombing in Beirut in 2005, not far from Friday’s explosion.
He later became finance minister when Hariri’s son, Saad, took over the premiership, and stayed on as his senior adviser after he lost the post in early 2011.
Chatah, who was also a former ambassador to the United States, tweeted the following status about an hour before the explosion that claimed his life.
#Hezbollah is pressing hard to be granted similar powers in security & foreign policy matters that Syria exercised in Lebanon for 15 yrs.
— Mohamad B Chatah (@mohamad_chatah) December 27, 2013
— LBCI News English (@LBCI_News_EN) December 27, 2013
— NOW English (@NOW_eng) December 27, 2013
— Mahmoud (@MahmoudRamsey) December 27, 2013