Deadly explosion rocks Lebanese capital Beirut, 5 Killed
Mohamed Shattah, Lebanon’s former finance minister, has been killed by a car bomb that exploded in the centre of the capital Beirut along with at least five others, officials told Al Jazeera.
The blast struck close to the government’s headquarters and parliament on Friday, injuring at least 71 people, according to initial medical reports.
Immediate footage showed people fleeing the area of the incident in the residential Ain el-Merasa district, with cars ablaze and people on fire, as clouds of black smoke billowed surrounding banks, restaurants and hotels.
Medics and army troops were deployed to the scene where Shattah, a close aide of Saad Hariri, the country’s former prime minister, was believed to have been targeted as his convoy was passing through. Shattah was also a leading member of the Future Movement.
Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin, reporting from the site of the attack, said security forces have been on the alert for at least 10 days.
Amin added that the blast was so strong that even people in the buildings around the area of the bombing were injured as windows shattered.
Critique of Syrian regime
Shattah was a vocal critic of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria as well as Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia group which has sent fighters to Syria to prop up regime forces.
He was also a leading figure in an international tribunal which was formed to look into the the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the Lebanese former prime minister assassinated in 2005.
Our correspondent said it was not clear if the bombing was carried out through a suicide attack or any other method.
She added that Hezbollah condemned the attack.
Beirut has been hit by several deadly attacks over the past months, including twin suicide blasts in November that targeted the Iranian embassy.
The assassination of the Muslim Sunni senior official marks the latest in a spate of attacks that have recently torn the multi-confessional country, fuelled by the next-door civil war in Syria.