02/14/2005, 00.00
LEBANON

Car bomb kills Lebanon's former Prime Minister

Beirut (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed in a roadside car bomb in downtown Beirut as his motorcade was passing by. According to preliminary reports, at least nine people died in the explosion and another 40 people were injured.

The announcement of Mr. Hariri's death was made on the al-Mostaqbal Television Network, which Mr Hariri owned, and was later confirmed by the US military hospital where he had been taken.

The bomb exploded in a busy Beirut neighbourhood, an area known for its grand hotels along the beachfront. The bomb was placed inside a car parked across from the HSBC Bank which was initially thought to have been the target.

The area in front of the bank is now one big pile of broken glass and rubble. Blown out were the windows of the elegant Phoenicia Hotel but also those of Lebanon's parliament which is farther away. Downtown Beirut is now said to look like a bombed out area.

Rafik Hariri, 60, had quit as Prime Minister on October 20, 2004, after weeks of tensions and political impasse over a constitutional amendment that prolonged the mandate of current president Émile Lahoud, who is backed by Syria.

In recent weeks he had joined the opposition's calls for Syrian withdrawal ahead of next May's parliamentary elections.

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