Beirut(Reuters)- A prominent anti-Syrian news anchor was seriously wounded when her car exploded in Lebanon on Sunday, fuelling fears of a slide into violence as the U.N. wraps up a probe into the murder of an ex-prime minister.
May Chidiac, 43, a Christian journalist, is a familiar face to Lebanese. She had hosted a talk show earlier in the day to discuss public fears of more violence ahead of the U.N. investigators presenting their report, expected next month.
A security source said the bomb weighed around 500 grams (one pound) and was planted beneath Chidiac”s white four-wheel-drive. It exploded as she was getting in, wrecking the car.
Doctors said her left leg beneath the knee was blown off in the blast, which also set hair and clothes ablaze. They also operated to try to save her left hand. She was in a stable condition in hospital on Sunday night.
A series of explosions has rocked Lebanon in recent months. The killing of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in February threw the country into its worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
An anti-Syrian politician and columnist were killed in Lebanon earlier this year and an explosion wounded pro-Syrian Defense Minister Elias Murr in July.
"May Chidiac, who is known through the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation for her courageous stance, was targeted by this explosion," her colleague Yazbeck Wehbe said from the blast scene in Ghazir north of the capital Beirut.
Chidiac began reading the news on LBC, a Christian-owned channel that has long been critical of Syria”s domination of Lebanon, 20 years ago in the midst of the civil war.
"Is this a message to our colleague May, or to the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation as a whole or to Lebanon”s media body or to political freedom in Lebanon?" LBC said in an editorial message at the start of its news broadcast.
At the United Nations in New York, Secretary-General Kofi Annan strongly condemned the attack and wished Chidiac a speedy recovery.
"The Secretary-General believes that the international community should not tolerate such terrorist attacks," a spokesman said. "Such callous acts now form a pattern of onslaught not only against Lebanese citizens but also against the principles of a democratic, open society, which, most importantly, includes the freedom of the press."
Annan called on the Lebanese government to bring to justice the perpetrators and instigators of the attack on Chidiac and other attacks "to ensure an end to impunity."
Many Lebanese have blamed Damascus for the spate of killings since Hariri”s murder, all of which have gone unpunished.
Syria denies any role in them, although the U.N. inquiry has already led to the arrest of four pro-Syrian generals on charges of murder.
Hariri”s murder prompted intense global pressure and Lebanese street protests that forced Syria to pull its troops out of its neighbor in April after 29 years.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, a close aide of the late Hariri, predicted more attacks ahead of the U.N. report.
"Other attempts may be made. We are paying the price of freedom and independence," he told reporters. "What we are seeing is part of the … preparations for handling the results of the probe."
U.N. investigators returned on Friday from Damascus, where they questioned several Syrian officials over Hariri”s killing.
Sunday”s explosion appears similar to that which killed newspaper columnist Samir Kassir, also a sharp critic of Syria, in his car on June 2.
George Hawi, a former Lebanese Communist Party and critic of Syria, was killed by a blast in his car the same month.