By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch, Middle East
BEIRUT, Lebanon, Mohamed Chatah, Lebanon’s former Finance Minister and six others were killed in an attack on Friday in central Beirut. The bombing struck close to the government headquarters and parliament in the capita. Initial medical reports indicated that more than 71 people. The blast was reportedly so powerful it blew out the windows of nearby buildings. The shared glass insured dozens of people.
Mohamed Chatah is believed to have been the target of the attack, which was carried out as his convoy was passing through the area.
Chatah was well known as a critic of the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, whom he accused of meddling in his countries domestic affairs. Hezbollah, the leading political organization in Lebanon supports the Assad regime and has sent fighters to help al-Assad’s forces in the Syrian civil war. In his last blog post Chatah wrote that “A united and peaceful Syria ruled by Assad is simply not possible anymore. It has been like that for some time.” He continued saying that “the status quo ante cannot be restored. Iran and Hezbollah realize this more than anyone else.”
In a Tweet posted less than an hour before his death Chatah accused the Hezbollah of trying to take control of the country. The Tweet read “Hezbollah is pressing hard to be granted similar powers in security and foreign policy matters that Syria exercised in Lebanon for 15 years.”
On Friday, Saad Hariri and his March 14 allies issued statements implying that the Syrian government or its ally Hezbollah was responsible for the attack. Hariri’s “March 14 coalition” is a pro-Western, political alliance dominated by Sunni Muslims.
Taking its name for the day in 2005 when thousands of people gathered in Beirut a month after the assassination of Hariri’s father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, demanding an end to what they viewed as a Syrian occupation of Lebanon.
The Assad regime has so far denied any involvement in the attack. Syria’s Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi, in remarks published by state news agency SANA said “these wrong and arbitrary accusations are made in a context of political hatred.”
Chatah’s killing occurred three weeks before the start of a trial of five Hezbollah members indicted for a 2005 bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Saad’s father, and 21 other people. The trial is set to open in The Hague in January.
Hezbollah, denies any role in the 2005 assassination and has refused to cooperate with the court, which it claims is politically motivated.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his March 14 coalition have accused Hezbollah, a major Shia political organization in Lebanon, of, of involvement in Chatah’s death. Hariri said “As far as we are concerned the suspects … are those who are fleeing international justice and refusing to represent themselves before the international tribunal”
For more information please see
Al Jazeera – Beirut Car Bombing Kills Top Politician – 27 December 2013
CNN International – Lebanon’s Mohamad Chatah — U.S. Friend, Hezbollah Foe — Killed In Blast – 27 December 2013
The New York Times – Bomb in Beirut Kills Politician, a Critic Of Syria And Hezbollah – 27 December 2013
Reuters – Lebanon’s Hariri Points to Hezbollah over Beirut Killing – 27 December 2013