||Kaslik 23 March 2005
Opposition blames Syria for deadly blast by:
THREE KILLED IN BOMB ATTACK NORTH OF BEIRUT
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s opposition accused
pro-Syrian Lebanese security agents of Wednesday’s bomb blast in a Christian
quarter north of Beirut which killed three and wounded five others.
The huge bomb, the second targeting a Christian area in less than a week in the
run up to Easter, threatens to envelope Lebanon in an atmosphere of fear and
chaos just weeks before nationwide elections are scheduled to take place.
The country’s political opposition believes the bomb attacks are being carried
out by pro-Syrian groups who are determined to create havoc in order to prove a
need for a Syrian Army presence in Lebanon.
Click here to enlarge
In a statement, the opposition Qornet
Shehwan gathering said: “It has become clear to everyone that the security
regime and its collaborators are responsible for terrorizing the people that
united behind the demands of the opposition.”
Leading opposition MP Walid Jumblatt said the security services were guilty of
organizing a “theater of blood” and reiterated his demand that the top security
Opposition member Simon Karam added: “The Lebanese- Syrian security network is
targeting Christian regions in order to provoke Islamic-Christian tension,which
will not happen.”
French President Jacques Chirac, one of Syria’s most vocal international
critics, said he was “beside himself with anger” at the bombing.
Chirac said: “I hope that those who are banking on stirring strife in Lebanon
and are trying to show that anarchy and bombings would return to Lebanon
without Syrian intervention, I hope those who are playing this trivial game can
be swiftly exposed and brought to justice.”
The blast occurred in the Kesrouan area of Kaslik a few miles outside the
capital and comes hard on the heels of a similar blast just five days earlier
in New Jdeideh which wounded 11 people.
The three victims of the blast are all believed to be Sri Lankan nationals who
had recently arrived in Lebanon in search of work and a better life.
The 30-kilogram bomb, planted in a suitcase under the stairway entrance to the
Alta Vista center, exploded at 1:30 a.m. and devastated shops,boutiques and
nightclubs, as well as dozens of parked cars.
Red Cross and Civil Defense personnel searched by hand through the debris for
victims as police dogs sniffed the rubble for other explosive charges that
could have been planted at the site.
Rumors of booby-trapped cars have been spreading rapidly and a number of false
alarms were reported in Mansourieh, Achrafieh, Jamhour and Kaslik, where the
Universite Saint Esprit received a call that a bomb might explode at any
All students and staff members were evacuated, but the alarm proved to be
Hizbullah condemned the bombing and urged Lebanese people to be cautious. The
group also called on the authorities to take all measures that would secure
people’s safety and reassure them.
President Emile Lahoud said the attack was aimed at pushing Lebanon into “chaos
and fear” and reiterated his earlier call for dialogue between opposition and
loyalist politicians “as the only means to break the political stalemate and
bridge all differences on controversial issues.”
Lebanon’s opposition has steadfastly refused to enter a dialogue with loyalist
politicians until its demands,which include the resignation of the country’s
security chiefs, an independent investigation into former Prime Minister Rafik
Hariri’s murder and a full Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon are met.
The opposition also called for those directly harmed by the blasts to file
personal lawsuits against the interior and defense ministers for “failing to
protect the security of the Lebanese.”
Outgoing Interior Minister Suleiman Franjieh said he was willing to assume full
responsibility for the blast, but insisted his “conscience is clear” and that
he was not afraid of any lawsuits.
He urged Qornet Shehwan members, who he said were “full of hatred and had found
in Hariri’s assassination a means to settle accounts, to overcome their hatred
or at least postpone it because of the current delicate situation.”
In Bkirki,Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir said the bombings were proof of
“weakness not of strength.”
He added: “There are always people who do not want any good for Lebanon, and
they want to create problems.” Kesrouan MP Farid Khazen said the Kaslik attack
was a response by the commanders of Lebanon’s major security branches to the
opposition demand that they all be fired for failing to prevent Hariri’s
assassination last month. Kesrouan MP Neamatallah Abi Nasr added: “Such attacks
will escalate correspondingly with the progress of the process of Lebanon’s
restoration of sovereignty and independence.”
‘AS SCARED AS PEOPLE ARE, WE HAVE TO HAVE FAITH IN
BEIRUT: The bustling and picturesque
area of Kaslik had escaped unscathed from 15 years of civil war but in the
early hours of Wednesday morning a large bomb tore through a shopping arcade,
killing three Indian workers sleeping inside and causing extensive damage to
the surrounding area.
The bomb, which official sources said was about 30 kilograms while other
reports indicated it was between 80 and 100 kilograms, detonated at around 1:30
a.m. in the Alta Vista shopping center in downtown Kaslik.
Security officials think the bomb may have been planted under one of the
For many Lebanese, Kaslik was the main recreational area immediately after the
end of the civil war, when much of Beirut was still in ruins.
The area’s nightlife and commercial activity grew even bigger following the
February14 assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri, as security fears
increasingly drew clubbers and shoppers away from Downtown Beirut and often out
of the capital.
Christian opposition politicians said the attacks aimed to reopen sectarian
wounds left by the 1975-90 civil war. “Syria, forced by the international
community to get out of Lebanon, thinks that with the help of its Lebanese
collaborators it can snuff out the uprising for independence that has been
ignited by the murder of Rafik Hariri,” said opposition MP Fares Soueid.
Devastated shop owners picked through the rubble. Others salvaged personal
belongings from cars wrecked by the blast. Security forces went from boutique
to boutique assessing the damage in Kaslik, a town of expensive shops,
fashionable restaurants and trendy nightclubs.
Fortunately the Buddha Bar nightclub inside the multi-storey center was closed
Tuesday night. The death toll could have been much higher had the attack
happened on a busy weekend night. Holding back her tears, Shadia Sfeir, an
elderly saleswoman, accused Syrian intelligence agents of wanting to “prevent
us from demonstrating for the recovery of our sovereignty.
But they are wrong.” Georges, a man in his 50s, said the Syrians were
humiliated and unhappy about leaving Lebanon and were taking revenge by sowing
“We are afraid this is going to keep happening.The country is out of control.
No one knows who comes and who goes in Lebanon,” said George Aql, who was
helping his son sweep shattered glass outside his hairdressing salon. One
observer, Simon Shihan, noted that the attack in Kaslik came just before Easter
Sunday while the one in Jdeideh occurred in the run up to Palm Sunday.
The previous blast occurred in a less affluent neighborhood on Saturday
wounding 11 people. The attacks have so far occurred at night, apparently
intended to frighten more than kill.
“As long as it is only broken glass it is alright,” said Mano Kechebachian,
picking up knee-high boots and handbags, strewn among the shattered glass
covering his shop floor.
“As scared as people are, we have to have faith in Lebanon.” Following the
blast on Wednesday, Jounieh Mayor Juan Hobeich assured the area’s citizens that
the municipal police will be insuring the people’s protection 18 hours a day.
The Kesrouan-Ftouh Qaimaqam Raymond Hitti said that security and military
patrols will be increased in the area and urged the citizens to dial the
Internal Security Forces’ hotline – 112 – in the event that they need to report
any suspicious objects.
Taking a different line, Jamal Nehme, a former director general of Surete
Generale who was seated at a cafe near the blast site, told reporters that:
“The people’s court is always the most dangerous.
Public opinion is unfair. The Syrians are our neighbors and we must not let
them leave humiliated.”
LOYALISTS AND OPPOSITION UNITE IN DENOUNCING DEADLY
BEIRUT: The Kaslik blast early Wednesday morning sparked a wave of reactions
from both Lebanese loyalist and opposition officials with opposition MPs
accusing the security services of being behind the spate of recent explosions
that have spread panic throughout the country.
“The Lebanese-Syrian security network is targeting Christian regions to provoke
Islamic-Christian tension, which will not happen,” said Simon Karam, a former
diplomat and a member of the Christian opposition.
“These services are trying to divide the opposition.” Kesrouan MP Mansour Bone
indicated that such services were “targeting the security of the Christians in
order to create confessional troubles.”
Beirut MP Walid Eido said: “The Lebanese people are united and nothing will
shake that. We say to the security services and those behind them that we
demand our freedom, sovereignty and their departure.”
Jbeil MP Abbas Hashem described the incident as a “despicable act,” stressing
that it aimed at shaking the economy of the country and intimidating the people
rather than threatening civil peace.
“The remnants of the authority, which are responsible for security, are to be
held accountable for such acts,” Hashem said, calling for early parliamentary
elections to facilitate the peaceful transfer of power.
Replying to President Emile Lahoud’s statement that security is under control
in the country, Jbeil MP Nazem Khoury urged the president to deal with the
nation’s security “with seriousness and responsibility” and not at the expenses
of the country’s freedom and sovereignty.
The MP asked if the terms of dialogue in Lebanon are the current explosions
Khoury said no internal party has anything to gain from the current spate of
incidents. “There is more than one regional party who might take advantage of
the unrest in Lebanon,” he added.
Metn MP Pierre Gemayel described the recent violence as “a desperate attempt to
stop the wheel of change and turn the eyes away from the important challenges
the Lebanon is witnessing.”
Gemayel said the Kaslik and the New Jdeideh blasts aimed at targeting stability
and stirring strife.
He stressed that the Lebanese are aware of such a scheme and are intent to
continue on their path to achieving national unity.
In a statement released following an emergency meeting, the Phalange Party’s
Reformist Movement blamed the explosion on the secret services.
It urged the Lebanese people to exercise extreme caution because of what it
described as “such critical and decisive circumstances.”
The movement accused the security services of generating instability in the
hope of postponing the parliamentary elections to enable the creation of a
biased government and hamper the process of the Lebanese toward unity and
“Once again, the ball is in the authority’s hand,” the movement said, demanding
it identify and prosecute the perpetrators. Meanwhile, Outgoing
Telecommunications Minister Jean- Louis Qordahi strongly condemned the crime
and called for a swift investigation.
In a telephone call to Jounieh Mayor Juan Hobeish, Qordahi said the ministry
was ready to repair any damages caused to the telephone network.
The ministry entrusted a technical team to scan the area for speedy repairs.
The Tripoli Gathering urged Lahoud and outgoing Interior and Municipalities
Minister Suleiman Franjieh to deploy the Lebanese Army in Tripoli following an
attack on the city’s Caritas welfare association center.
The Caritas welfare association center is a former Syrian intelligence bureau.
In the wake of the rearming of many of Tripoli’s militia members, most of whom
participated in the 25-year civil war, tensions are running high in the area.
The Gathering members, MPs Mohammed Kabbara, Maurice Fadel and Mohammed Safadi,
said they would hold the government responsible in the event of any further
incidents. Outgoing Minister of State Albert Mansour said that the government
is responsible for the security of citizens, whereas the political escalation
and media instigations are the responsibility of the citizens themselves.
Mansour stressed that the security problem did not create the political crisis
but rather ignited it,blaming the incident on those fomenting the present
“Every one should contribute to calming the situation,” he said.
If you are damaged from one of the latest terrorist explosions, and wish to get
help and support from ULSF, please
download the application (PDF)
and fax it back to us: 961-1-349614.
Please precise it is a PDF