A man with a silencer-equipped pistol assassinated the French military attache today as the diplomat stepped from his car just outside the security zone surrounding the French Embassy.
The killing in Christian East Beirut came amid a spate of deadly bombings in Paris claimed by Middle Eastern extremist groups seeking the release of comrades jailed in the French capital.
French peacekeeping troops in southern Lebanon have been attacked several times in recent weeks, and Shia Muslim extremists claim to hold six Frenchmen abducted in Beirut.
An anonymous caller claimed responsibility for the attache's slaying in the name of the Revenge and Justice Front, a previously unknown group. "Let (French Premier Jacques) Chirac know that our next coming blow will be more crippling," the caller told a Western news agency in Beirut.
Outside Security Zone
French Embassy spokesman Francois Abi Saab said Col. Christian Goutierre was outside the French legation's security zone in Hazmieh's Mar Takla neighborhood when he was shot twice in the head at 8:30 a.m.
A police spokesman said Goutierre had been tailed by four gunmen, one of whom shot him with a silencer-equipped pistol when the attache stepped out of his parked car.
The Muslim-controlled Voice of the Nation radio station said police described the assassin as a tall, dark man about 28 years old, wearing a white shirt and beige trousers.
Officials could not explain why Goutierre parked outside the guarded and policed security zone after driving his car the 600 yards from his home to the embassy. The security zone stretches in a 100-yard radius around the four-story embassy.