12/28/2013, 00.00
LEBANON
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Beirut: mystery surrounds the murder of anti-Hizbollah leader Chatah

No one has claimed responsibility for the car bomb that killed the former minister and four other people yesterday in the Lebanese capital, leaving more than 50 injured. Hizbollah and Syria have denied any involvement. The reasons behind the attack remain unclear. The victim was opposed to Assad and served as a political advisor to Lebanon's late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and his son Saad.

Beirut (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The car bomb that killed former Lebanese Minister Mohamad Chatah and four other people in the heart of Beirut has sparked a whirlwind of speculation and denials, raising the level of insecurity in the country.

It is unclear why Chatah, a prominent opposition figure and advisor to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, was targeted. So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, which also injured 50 people.

Hariri has blamed Hizbollah for the murder but the Shia group said, "No-one benefits from [the bombing] but Lebanon's enemies".

Chatah, a Sunni Muslim, was a well-known opponent of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and of the Lebanese Shia movement that supports him.

Saad Hariri blamed "those who are hiding from international justice and who have spread the regional fire to the [Lebanese] nation".

Syrian authorities have rejected the accusations that they were involved in the attack. Syria's Information Minister Omran Zoab said allegations that Syria was behind the blast were "random and arbitrary".

As many regional and international experts point out, there are at least two factors linked to the attack.

The first is the war in Syria, which has led to an intra-Islamic strife across national boundaries. If this were the case, Chatah's opposition to Syrian President Assad would be the cause of his murder.

The second is connected with the trial of five Hizbollah members suspected of taking part in the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Saad Hariri's father. The trial is set for January, but the five defendants (and their party) deny any involvement.

In 2005, Chatah was a political adviser when the former prime minister was slain in another "St Valentine massacre", which plunged Lebanon back into the bad days of chaos.

Whatever the case, in Beirut, residents are under shock. The blast occurred in their city's downtown area, not far from the parliament building, leaving several cars destroyed and surrounding buildings damaged.

"We were opening when we heard the explosion. It was really loud," said Mohammad, who works in a local shop. "We are used to these things in Lebanon, but not in this area. Now we are not really safe anywhere."

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