BEIRUT (Reuters) – A powerful car bomb blast wounded Lebanon”s pro-Syrian caretaker Defense Minister Elias Al-Murr and killed two people north of Beirut on Tuesday, security officials said.
The bomb targeted Murr”s motorcade in the Christian suburb of Antelias. Security officials said 12 people were also wounded in the explosion, audible for several km (miles).
It was the latest in a series of bombings and assassinations in Lebanon since the Feb. 14 killing of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and the first to target a pro-Syrian figure.
The officials said Murr suffered facial wounds and a broken hand and was rushed to hospital along with one of his aides, who was badly wounded in the attack.
"I was at home when it happened. I saw smoke and fire out on the street and people screaming. It was a very loud explosion," said 14-year-old Mazen Baaklini. Television pictures showed the smoldering wreckage of several cars almost totally destroyed in the blast. Blood stained the street and building facades were ripped off. Smoking vehicle parts were blown into the garden of a nearby villa.
Television pictures showed medics taking a charred body from a mangled car.
Investigators cordoned off the area of the explosion, which gouged a crater several meters (yards) across and destroyed five cars in the wealthy hillside area overlooking the Mediterranean.
The wife of the Mexican ambassador was slightly wounded in the explosion that was near the Mexican and Bolivian embassies, embassy sources said. She did not require hospital treatment.
The latest explosion occurred as Prime Minister-designate Fouad Siniora was trying to form Lebanon”s first government since Syrian troops withdrew from the country in April.
Although Murr is regarded as pro-Syrian, his father has forged a political alliance with Michel Aoun, a Christian former general who returned in May after 14 years of forced exile for leading a revolt against the Syrian military presence.
"This will not affect the formation of the government and could even be a positive factor to end the political volatility we are living through," Aoun told al-Manar television.
"Murr had access to information about movements and terrorist organizations in the country and he was definitely exposed to such an attack," Aoun said.
Aoun and his supporters won 21 seats in Lebanon”s recent parliamentary election, the first since the Syrian pullout.
Many Lebanese have suspected a Syrian hand in previous bombings that targeted political opponents of Damascus, starting with a blast that wounded Druze politician Marwan Hamadeh in October. Damascus denies any involvement in the attacks.
Samir Qaseer, a journalist who vocally opposed Syria”s past role in Lebanon, was killed on June 2 by a bomb placed in his car. Anti-Syrian politician George Hawi, a former leader of the Communist Party, was killed in similar style on June 21.