Former Lebanese finance minister Mohamad Shatah was killed along with five others in a car bombing in downtown Beirut Friday, a security source said.
Seventy people were also wounded in the blast that targeted Shatah’s motorcade as it drove in the capital’s central district at around 9:40 a.m.
According to the Daily Star, the 62-year-old Shatah, a senior aide to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, was on his way to a March 14 coalition meeting at Hariri’s residence.
Acting State Prosecutor Samir Hammoud who visited the site of the explosion estimated the bomb to weigh between 50 and 60 kilograms.
He also denied reports earlier in the day that the attack was the act of a suicide bomber, saying the vehicle which was rigged with explosives was remotely detonated.
The security source said the vehicle used in the bombing was a Honda CRV stolen in 2012 in Saadeyat, Mount Lebanon.
Iran, Hezbollah condemn deadly bomb blast
Iranian officials condemned the deadly bomb blast.
In a statement issued by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, the Islamic Republic expressed condolences to the bereaved families and the wounded in the blast and called for an immediate action to apprehend the perpetrators and put them on trial.
The Foreign Ministry also called on the revolutionary people of Lebanon and its officials and various political groups to maintain their unity and vigilance to foil the Zionists’ plots, which are aimed at destabilizing Lebanon and provoking ethnic strife.
Hezbollah also denounced the crime and described Shatah as a martyr.
“Hezbollah sees that this crime is one of a series of crimes and blasts aimed at devastating the country,” the party said in a statement released by Hezbollah Media Relations.
It added that the attack is a “flagrant attempt to target the national stability and unity,” noting that no one profits from such blast but enemies of Lebanon.
“Hezbollah calls on the Lebanese to be rational and wise in order to face the dangers which are threatening their country,” the statement added.
The party also urged the security and judicial apparatuses to exert efforts in order to capture the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
The National News Agency reported that the explosion damaged six buildings, 14 shops and 42 vehicles which were parked along the street.
Hours after the explosion, President Michel Sleiman called for a meeting of the Higher Defense Council Saturday at 9 a.m. at Baabda Palace.
Lebanon has been rocked by a series of car bombs and suicide bombings this year related to the ongoing conflict in neighboring Syria. The deadly attacks mostly targeted Hezbollah strongholds and the Lebanese Army.
The explosion comes days before the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon begins the trial of four Hezbollah suspects over the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
The UN-backed court has scheduled Jan. 16, 2014 as the date for the start of trials of the suspects. A fifth Hezbollah member was also indicted in the case by the STL in August.
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