A sense of crisis has gripped Lebanon again after a massive bomb explosion in Beirut killed senior opposition figure and former prime ministerial adviser Mohamad Chatah.
The bomb ripped through the ex-minister’s car. Five other people died in the attack near the city’s business district. Dozens were injured.
No-one has claimed responsibility for Chatah’s death, but amid the turmoil fingers were immediately pointed at neighbouring Syria and its ally Hezbollah.
Hezbollah has denounced the attack as a “repugnant attempt” to damage stability and national unity, which could only benefit Lebanon’s enemies.
Damascus has vehemently denied any involvement, accusing some in Lebanon of making wild allegations based on political hatred.
Chatah, a Sunni Muslim, was hostile both to Syrian President al-Assad’s regime and to Hezbollah.
Former prime minister Saad al-Hariri, who Chatah advised, directly accused the Shi’ite movement.
Another ex-leader added his voice: “The killer is the same, the same as the one who is thirsty for blood, both Syrian and Lebanese… in Beirut, in Tripoli, all over Lebanon…. as in Syria, from Deraa, to Aleppo, to Damascus, all over the country,” said former Lebanese premier Fouad Siniora.
The bombing comes two weeks before a trial in The Hague of Hezbollah suspects charged with assassinating former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.
Lebanon has seen a series of attacks which have been linked to heightened sectarian tensions over the Syrian war.