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Christian Suicide Blast Kills Five in East Beirut

From Times Wire Services

A Christian suicide bomber today killed five people and injured 19, including several Christian Establishment leaders, when his pickup truck packed with 880 pounds of explosives blew up yards from a monastery used as a political headquarters in East Beirut.

The truck exploded in a fireball outside St. George Monastery in the East Beirut suburb of Aukar, a few hundred yards from a U.S. Embassy building devastated by a car bomb Sept. 20, 1984. The blast broke windows at the embassy but caused no casualties there.

Official sources said the pickup raced toward the monastery where the right-wing Christian Lebanese Front, which opposes a Syrian-backed peace plan for Lebanon, was holding its weekly meeting.

Lebanese army guards opened fire after the driver ignored orders to halt, and the truck exploded in a ball of fire a few yards from its target, the sources said.

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4 Other Dead, 19 Wounded

Apart from the driver, the blast killed three soldiers and a woman and wounded 19 people, they said.

Christian “Voice of Lebanon” radio said former Lebanese President Camille Chamoun and his son, Dany, escaped with bruises, but Falangist Party leader Elie Karameh and two other Lebanese Front members were hospitalized with minor injuries.

The southern wing of the monastery collapsed, but there was less damage to the thick-walled northern wing where the front began meeting at 10 a.m. (midnight PST) 10 minutes before the blast.

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“It was like a huge thunderclap,” said Father Albert Sherfan, the monastery’s superior.

Opposes Damascus Accord

The front has opposed a peace accord reached by Muslim and Christian militias in Damascus last month, objecting to reforms that would dismantle a Lebanese power-sharing system favoring the Christian minority.

Speaking to reporters after the explosion, the 85-year-old Chamoun, who is also Lebanese minister of finance and housing, repeated his opposition to the accord, which was to have been signed nine days ago.

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“Abolishing political confessionalism contradicts the history of Lebanon,” he said. "(The system) has never been an obstacle to Lebanon’s development and progress except in special cases caused by foreign intervention.”

A caller to an international news agency claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of two hitherto unknown Christian groups.

Attack on ‘Opportunists’

The caller, in the first of two calls, said the “Free Christian Youth Organization” carried out the attack against “opportunists . . . who placed their personal interests above everything else and put the interests of Christians in the hands of Israel and Syria.”

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In another call an hour later, he said the “Vanguards of Arab Christians” were responsible and were ready “to make more sacrifices in the interest of our Christian people.”

The caller, speaking in Arabic, accused Christian leaders meeting at the monastery of seeking to align Lebanon’s Christian community with Israel. He said of the bombing: “This is the end of everyone who is in Israel’s lap.” He hung up after reading the statement.


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