Former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri, currently the leader of the anti-Assad, anti-Hezbollah March 14 bloc, hinted Friday that the Lebanese terror group was behind the assassination in Beirut earlier Friday of former minister Mohammad Chatah, an adviser to Hariri.
“Those who assassinated Mohammad Chatah are the ones who assassinated [former prime minister and Saad’s father] Rafik Hariri; they are the ones who want to assassinate Lebanon,” Hariri said in a statement, hours after the explosion that killed Chatah and at least four others.
“The suspects are those who are running away from international justice and refuse to appear in the Special Tribunal for Lebanon; they are the ones opening the window of evil and chaos to Lebanon and the Lebanese and are drawing regional fires,” he added.
Chatah was among the five people killed Friday in a large car bombing targeting his convoy in the Lebanese capital’s downtown district.
“This is the latest terrorist message to us; we, in the Future Movement and the March 14 coalition, are the free Lebanese,” Hariri said, adding “your name will remain one of the beacons of light of Lebanon’s civilization, progress and future and your biography will remain a milestone to inspire our political life.”
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.”
At least five 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 Hariri the father, 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 Lebanon News EN (@LBCI_News_EN) December 27, 2013
— NOW English (@NOW_eng) December 27, 2013
— Mahmoud (@MahmoudRamsey) December 27, 2013