Lebanon car bombing kills top security official
BEIRUT ó A top Lebanese security official closely allied to Sunni leader Saad Hariri was killed in a massive car bombing in a densely populated neighborhood of Beirut on Friday, bringing the violence threatening to engulf the region to the heart of Lebanonís capital after years of relative calm.
Maj. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, who headed the Intelligence and Information Department of the Internal Security Forces, was among at least eight people killed in the mid-afternoon car bombing in a quiet side street near Sassine Square, in the cityís mostly Christian Ashrafiyeh area.
Al-Hassan was renowned for leading the investigation that uncovered an alleged role by the Shiite Hezbollah movement in the assassination of Haririís father, former prime minister Rafik Hariri, in 2005. Most recently he headed the investigation into an alleged plot by Michel Samaha, a former information minister and close ally of Syriaís, to carry out a bombing campaign in Lebanon.
ďThis is a big, big, big event, and one cannot begin even to think through the repercussions,Ē said Mohammed Chatah, an adviser to Hariri.
In the aftermath of the blast, which according to initial reports also injured at least 70 people, local television networks broadcast scenes of blazing cars, body parts and tangled piles of masonry and broken glass as rescue workers sifted through the charred wreckage looking for victims. A bank and an office of one of Lebanonís main Christian factions were located a short distance away, but two apartment buildings bore the brunt of the explosion.
The blast gouged a crater 15 feet deep and blew cars into pieces that landed blocks away, said George Azzi, who lives nearby and ran outside into crowds of screaming people, smoke and debris.