Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Black smoke over Beirut

It is a rude awakening for those who felt that the wave of assassinations that have plagued Lebanon since 2005 have eased following a general agreement (of sorts) on a new president.

A bomb on wednesday morning ripped apart the convoy carrying one of Lebanon's top military commanders, Francois El-Hajj, as he drove to work. Hajj was seen as "being close to Hizbollah" and a close friend of opposition leader Michel Aoun.

The AFP news agency reports:

"The army said Brigadier General Francois El-Hajj, 54, its chief of operations, was killed in the explosion along with a number of soldiers as his car drove past the Baabda municipality during the morning rush-hour.

"The security official said at least four people died and up to 10 were injured. The Lebanese Red Cross said five people were hospitalised, none of them with serious wounds.

"Several officials said Hajj was targeted as he was tipped to replace as army chief General Michel Suleiman, the front-runner to become Lebanon's next president but whose election has been blocked by a stand-off between pro- and anti-Syrian camps."

The killing follows a further delay in the election of a new president.

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