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Last Updated: Friday, 1 October, 2004, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
Ex-minister hurt in Beirut blast
Wreckage of the car
Mr Hamadeh's driver was killed while he and his bodyguard were hurt
A bomb has gone off in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, injuring a former minister and killing his driver.

The explosion took place on a side street of Beirut's seafront, just outside the home of MP Marwan Hamadeh.

Mr Hamadeh's two-car convoy had just started driving off when the power of the blast propelled one car to the side of the road and set the other on fire.

Mr Hamadeh's driver was killed while he and his bodyguard were hurt and taken to the American University Hospital.

The scene of the attack was sealed off.

Targeted

Forensic experts took pictures of the wrecked cars, including one which appears to have carried the explosive charge.

Marwan Hamadeh, Lebanese member of parliament
Hamadeh is a member of the opposition who has held several ministerial posts

The BBC's Kim Ghattas in Beirut says it looks like Mr Hamadeh, a Druze and a member of the opposition, was the target.

The car bomb has been condemned by politicians from across the board as an attempt to sow civil strife in the country.

President Emile Lahoud said the attack targeted Lebanon's security and stability.

Lebanese officials and top western diplomats went to the hospital, where Mr Hamadeh has been receiving treatment for wounds to his face and legs.

The visitors included Syria's Vice-President Abdel Halim Khaddam, who rushed over from Damascus when he heard the news

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt appealed for calm, but said the car bomb was a clear message for the opposition.

Mr Jumblatt has been leading a fierce campaign against Syria's influence in Lebanon and Mr Hamadeh is a member of Mr Jumblatt's parliamentary bloc.

Until last month, he was also a cabinet minister, but along with three colleagues, he resigned from his post to protest against a controversial vote in parliament to keep the president in power for another three years.

The extension of the mandate of Emile Lahoud, a protege of Damascus, was seen as a direct result of Syrian pressure and has been heavily criticised by the US, France and the UN.

Syria is Lebanon's political master and maintains some 15,000 troops in the country.

The attack also comes a few days after the Lebanese interior ministry said it had foiled plans to attack western targets in the country.

Several people said to be linked to al-Qaeda were arrested.




SEE ALSO:
Syrian troops pull out of Lebanon
23 Sep 04  |  Middle East
Country profile: Lebanon
04 Sep 04  |  Country profiles



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