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Monday, 20 May, 2002, 17:54 GMT 18:54 UK
Militant blames Israel for Beirut blast
Wrecked car of Jihad Jibril
The bomb was placed under the driver's seat
The leader of a hardline Palestinian militant group has blamed Israel for a car bomb attack which killed his son in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

Ahmed Jibril, founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), said the Israeli secret service (Mossad) was behind the blast.

The Mossad managed this time to assassinate my son

Ahmed Jibril, PFLP-GC
Forty-year-old Muhammad Jihad Jibril, Mr Jibril's eldest son, died in a large explosion when he tried to start his car in Beirut's Mar Elias district.

Israel has denied any connection to the bombing.

Speaking from his headquarters in the Syrian capital, Damascus, Mr Jibril said: "The Mossad managed this time to assassinate my son after having tried in vain four times to do it.

Jihad Jibril
Jihad Jibril was a PFLP-GC military commander

"He is now a martyr, like the Palestinians who offer their lives daily in Palestine," he said.

But Israeli Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer dismissed the claim.

"Not everything that blows up in Beirut has to be connected to us," he told Israel television.

Jihad Jibril's body was handed over to his family on Monday and carried aloft through the Palestinian refugee camp of Burj al-Barajneh in Beirut.

He is due to be buried in Syria on Wednesday.

Powerful blast

Lebanese security sources said the bomb which killed Jihad Jibril was placed underneath the driver's seat of the Peugeot 504.

The blast tore through the car, dismembering Mr Jibril's body.

PFLP-GC facts
Founded by Ahmed Jibril in 1968
Supported by Syria and Iran
Committed to military attacks on Israel
High-profile operations in 1980s and 1990s, including hanglider attack from Lebanon
Suspected of involvement in the Lockerbie bombing

The explosion also caused damage to some buildings, but there were no reports of other casualties.

Ambulances, sirens wailing, rushed to the scene and police sealed off the area to begin an investigation into the blast.

Three arrests were made by Lebanese police.

Jihad Jibril was a commander of the PFLP-GC's military operations and is reported to have been involved in an airborne attack on Israel in 1987, which killed six Israeli soldiers.

Arafat accused

The PFLP-GC is one of the most implacable enemies of Israel, opposing any negotiated settlement with the Jewish state.

The group has been linked to rocket attacks against Israeli targets launched from southern Lebanon, but it has not played a prominent role in the current Palestinian uprising.

Ahmed Jibril
Ahmed Jibril is among Israel's most hardline opponents

Ahmed Jibril recently accused Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat of being a "pawn of Israel" for his decision to allow the exile of Palestinian militants to Cyprus and to jail accused killers of Israel's tourism minister.

Lebanon has seen numerous car bomb assassinations during and after the end of its 15-year civil war in 1990, often used to settle scores between rival factions.

In January, former cabinet minister and ex-militia leader Elie Hobeika was killed, along with three of his bodyguards, in a car bomb which many Lebanese believed to have served Israeli interests.

Hobeika, who led a pro-Israeli Christian militia during Lebanon's civil war, was implicated in the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians during Israel's 1982 invasion of the country.

The BBC's Kim Ghattas in Beirut
"There is no motive yet known for the assassination"
Robert Fisk, Journalist
"Now we know who the dead man is serious questions arise"

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