4 Die in Truck-Bombing of Lebanese Christians
A suicide bomber crashed a pickup truck loaded with explosives into a monastery where six senior Lebanese Christian politicians were meeting Tuesday. The bomber, two army guards and a woman were killed and 26 other people injured, police said.
Among the injured were all six senior members of the Lebanese Front, the rightist political coalition dominated by Maronite Christians. Only one of the six, former Defense Minister George Skaf, 55, was hurt seriously, police said.
Those whom police identified as slightly hurt included former President Camille Chamoun, 85; his son, Dany, 51, leader of the National Liberal Party, which is part of the Lebanese Front, and Elie Karameh, leader of the Falangist Party, largest unit of the Lebanese Front. The elder Chamoun is also housing and finance minister in President Amin Gemayel’s coalition government.
Others wounded included bodyguards, passers-by and four soldiers, police said.
Shielded by Wall
They said a 2 1/2-foot-thick stone wall shielded the politicians from the main force of the blast, which gouged out a 20-foot-wide crater.
Elsewhere, three bombs exploded overnight in various parts of predominantly Muslim West Beirut, killing four civilians and wounding eight, police reported earlier in the day.
The meeting in the Christian suburb of Aukar, outside East Beirut, was to discuss opposition to the draft of a Syrian-sponsored armistice agreement reached last month by Lebanon’s three strongest militias in an effort to end 10 years of factional fighting. The Lebanese Front, once the most powerful of Lebanon’s political coalitions, was excluded from the negotiations because of its opposition to the powerful influence exerted by leftist Syria on Lebanese politics.
An anonymous caller claiming to speak for the hitherto-unknown “Vanguard of Arab Christians” told a Western news agency in Beirut, “We have staged this bombing, and we shall carry out more sacrifices.”
‘In Israel’s Lap’
Speaking in Lebanese-accented Arabic, the caller accused Christian leaders of seeking to align Lebanon’s Christian community with Israel and said, “This (the bombing) is the end of everyone who is in Israel’s lap.”
There was no way to authenticate the telephone call.
The suicide bombing was the first in Beirut since Sept. 20, 1984, when the U.S. Embassy annex, near the scene of Tuesday’s attack, was blasted in an attack that killed 14 people, including two Americans, and wounded 72.
The Tuesday attack was carried out with 660 pounds of explosives packed into a red and blue Dodge pickup truck, police said. Almost no trace of the suicide-driver was found, they added.
The bombing occurred at 10:10 a.m., moments after the Chamouns entered the sandstone, brick-roofed St. Georges Monastery. Camille Chamoun, who survived two bomb assassination attempts in 1980, suffered minor facial cuts, and his son was wounded in the hand, police said. Neither man was hospitalized.
Historian Is Injured
Besides Skaf and Karameh, police identified the other injured politicians as Edward Honein, a member of Parliament, and Fuad Boustani, a noted historian.
The pickup sped past an army checkpoint 200 yards from the monastery, a Maronite Catholic site used as headquarters by the Lebanese Front since the monastery’s monks left it nine years ago.
A corporal and a sergeant jumped into a jeep and raced behind the truck, shooting at the driver in an effort to stop the vehicle. But the driver crashed the truck into the southeast wall of the one-story monastery.
The Lebanese Forces, a Christian militia once allied with Israel, called for a 24-hour general strike today in all Christian areas to protest what a militia communique called “this criminal attempt to get rid of historical leaders” of Lebanon.
The Lebanese Forces, along with Shia Muslim and Druze militias, negotiated the Syrian-sponsored armistice plan. But Christian opponents of the armistice, including leaders of the Lebanese Front, said the document concedes too much to the country’s Muslim majority.
The plan would trim the powers of the president, who under an unwritten pact has always been a Christian, and calls for phasing out the sectarian system of government dominated by Christians since independence from France in 1943.