Lebanon: Previously unknown group may have carried out bomb attack

The Al-Jazeera satellite TV channel has said its Beirut office received a call from someone who said a previously unknown group carried out the car bomb attack in which former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and nine others died.

There has been no verification yet of the claim.

Hariri’s supporters quickly took to the streets, chanting his praises outside the American University Hospital where he was declared dead. In his hometown of Sidon, supporters blocked roads and burned tyres.

It was not immediately known whether the explosives had been planted in a car or a building.

In Washington, the White House paid tribute to Hariri as a man who “worked tirelessly to rebuild a free, independent and prosperous Lebanon” after its civil war.

“This murder today is a terrible reminder that the Lebanese people must be able to pursue their aspirations and determine their own political future, free from violence, and intimidation and free from Syrian occupation,” White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.

In Paris, Lebanon’s most prominent exile, former army commander General Michel Aoun, blamed Damascus and what he called the “feeble regime imposed by Syria” for the assassination.

“I think all these together are behind this crime,” Aoun said.

France demanded an international investigation into the assassination.

In a statement, French President Jacques Chirac’s office condemned the attack, which it said “provokes horror”.

France “asks that an international investigation is conducted without delay to determine the circumstances and the responsibilities for this tragedy, before punishing those responsible”.

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