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Car Bomb Kills Anti-Syrian Lawmaker Near Beirut

12 December 2005

A car bomb in Beirut has killed a prominent member of parliament who was also the editor of Lebanon's leading daily newspaper. The lawmaker, Gibran Tueni, was a leading opponent of Syrian involvement in Lebanon.

Police say a car packed with about 40 kilograms of TNT exploded as Mr. Tueni's motorcade passed by. The armored car sailed off the road and into a ravine.

The attack killed Mr. Tueni, his driver, and a bystander.

A previously unknown group calling itself Strugglers for the Unity and Freedom of the Levant has taken responsibility for the bombing. Its claim faxed to news organizations could not be authenticated.

Mr. Tueni was a member of parliament as well as the editor and publisher of Beirut's leading daily newspaper, An-Nahar. He was also a vocal critic of Syria and one of the leaders of the push to get Syrian troops to withdraw from Lebanon earlier this year.

Many in Beirut were quick to blame Damascus for Mr. Tueni's death, including his uncle, Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh.

"There is no doubt that Bashar Assad and his band of organized criminals are behind all these, this list of crimes," he said.

Syria denied any involvement in the killing. Syrian Information Minister Mehdi Dakhlallah blamed it on foreign interference by what he called enemies of Lebanon.

Mr. Tueni is the fourth prominent critic of Syria to be assassinated in a string of bombings since last February, when a massive car bomb killed former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and 20 other people.

Mr. Hamadeh threatened to resign from cabinet if an international investigation is not launched into all of the attacks, including one in October that targeted him.

The blast that killed Mr. Tueni came on the day that the man investigating the Hariri assassination, German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, is to present his findings to the U.N. Security Council.

Television footage taken in the Beirut office of Mr. Tueni's newspaper showed reporters and editors sobbing at their desks after learning the news.

Lebanese member of parliament Ali Hassan Khalil denounced the killing as an assault on the press.

"It is a crime that we condemn because it is against all Lebanon," he said. "Every Lebanese citizen feels shocked today over the assassination of the free word. Even if you disagree with it, you have to respect it. It is a loss. It is the assassination of freedom and the free press in Lebanon."

Mr. Tueni only returned to Lebanon from France on Sunday. He has spent much of his time abroad in recent months, believing his life was in danger.

This is not the first time that journalists from An-Nahar newspaper have been targeted. One of the paper's columnists, Samir Kassir, was killed by a bomb in his car in June.

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