Anti-Syrian journalist and lawmaker Gibran Tueni was killed Monday in an explosion that targeted his convoy, according to two Lebanese TV stations that are allied with him. Police did not immediately confirm.Tueni was the first major Lebanese journalist to call for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon in an open letter to Bashar Al Assad in March 2000. He had been an ally of Rafiq Hariri and a leading light of the Istiqlal '05 movement. His death is all-too-reminiscent of that of Samir Qassir, another journalist-turned-politician (or is it the other way around?) who was assassinated earlier this year.
LBC and Future TV said Tueni was killed in the explosion in that killed two other people in an industrial suburb of Beirut.
A switchboard operator at An-Nahar, the leading newspaper which Tueni heads, said "he's all right" when contacted by The Associated Press. His wife at the scene of the explosion was in tears. Asked by a reporter whether her husband was hurt, she refused to answer and shook her head as she was led away by police officers.
Police gave no immediate word on casualties, but an AP photographer saw three mutilated bodies after the explosion. At least 10 cars were destroyed, some tossed into a valley in the hilly Christian Mkalles area on Beirut's eastern entrance.
LBC TV and Future TV station, which is owned by the Hariri family, said a car bomb had been detonated, but police did not immediately say whether the bomb was placed in a car or next to a vehicle.
The leading suspects would of course be the Syrians, since Tueni was anti-Syrian, but I am not sure why they would kill such a high-profile person while the Mehlis investigation is taking place (or did Tueni have some new dirt?) But then again, they do seem to be building a track record of stupid assassinations.
They haven't posted anything yet, but The Lebanese Bloggers might be a good place to follow this up.
Update: Stacey remembers time spent with Tueni and shares what he told her, don't miss it. Le Figaro reports that Tueni had recently felt his life was threatened (he had spent a lot of time in France recently in part because of safety concerns) and notes the message the Syrian Minister of Information, Mehdi Dakhlallah, put out today:
The attack aims at the stability, the unity and the civil peace of Lebanon. The enemies of Lebanon are behind this attack. Before the intervention of foreign countries in Lebanon, the country was stable.No doubt these crocodile tears won't go down very well in Beirut. A lot of anger over at the Lebanese Bloggers. Some interesting links and info from Beirut to the Beltway, notably that the technique used in the bombing is similar to that used against Hariri (but then again I've heard conflicting reports on that).