Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Quick background information on Lebanon bombing

Car bomb attack in Lebanon kills 3

(From AP report)

BEIRUT, Lebanon - A car bomb attack killed one of Lebanon's top military generals and at least two others Wednesday

Lebanese soldiers and police stand near burning cars after a bomb exploded outside a municipal building in Baabda, an eastern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007. An early morning bomb attack killed one of Lebanon's top military generals and at least three others as they drove through a Christian suburb of Beirut, putting even more pressure on the country's delicate political situation, the military and state media said. (AP Photo)

The target of the attack, Brig. Gen. Francois Hajj, a top Maronite Catholic in the command, was considered a leading candidate to succeed the head of the military, Gen. Michel Suleiman, if Suleiman is elected president.

Hajj, 55, also led a major military campaign against Islamic militants over the summer.

The blast is the first such attack against the Lebanese army, which has remained neutral in Lebanon's yearlong political crisis and is widely seen as the only force that can hold the country together amid the bitter infighting between parliament's rival factions.

The political divisions have paralyzed the government and prevented the election of a president, leaving the post empty since Nov. 23 in a dangerous power vacuum. Under Lebanon's sectarian division of political posts, the president must be a Maronite, like the army commander.

Anti-Syrian politicians blamed Damascus

Damascus has denied any role in those killings.

Minister Marwan Hamadeh, speaking to Associated Press Television News, accused the "Syrian-Iranian axis"

But the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah, which has good relations with the army, denounced the assassination.

Suspicion also fell on al-Qaida-inspired Sunni Muslim militants, whom the army crushed at the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared in northern Lebanon in an operation led by Hajj, a battle that cost hundreds of lives.

Parliament is sharply divided between anti-Syrian supporters of the government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and the opposition, led by Hezbollah, an ally of Syria and Iran.

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