Large explosion in Beirut kills many including former prime minister

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Monday, February 14, 2005

A large blast on the seafront of west Beirut, Lebanon has killed several people, including former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Current reports conflict on the total number of casualties, suggesting nine or ten people killed and around 100 injured. Hariri was travelling in a car in a motorcade when the explosion occurred around 1pm local time. His bullet-proof car was totally destroyed. The attack took place near the luxurious Saint George hotel, in a residential neighborhood.

The cause of the blast is currently unknown for certain but it is believed to have been a car bomb. Anonymous sources have said car containing 300 kg of TNT was used; however other reports have suggested the explosives were placed in a building. The explosion created a crater at least 10 m across and devastated the fronts of nearby shops and hotels, destroying several buildings entirely. Apartment windows within a 1km radius were blown out.

Only one group has claimed responsibility, a little-known organisation from Syria called Victory and Jihad in Greater Syria. There has been no confirmation that this group actually carried out the attack. Hariri's supporters see Syria as being responsible for the attack. Lately, Hariri had become a chief opponent of the Syrian military presence (14,000 troops) in Lebanon.

The BBC quotes the group has having said "We hold the Lebanese authority and the Syrian authority, being the authority of tutelage in Lebanon, responsible for this crime and other similar crimes."

Rafik Bahaa Edine Hariri (November 1, 1944–February 14, 2005) was a Lebanese self-made billionaire businessman, and was twice Prime Minister of Lebanon, before his last resignation from office on October 20, 2004.

Sources

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