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Former Lebanese leader killed in blast

15 February, 2005

Lebanon's ex-PM Hariri killed in Beirut bomb blast
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Lebanon's former prime minister Rafiq Hariri was killed in a huge explosion in central Beirut on Monday.

The massive bomb targeted Hariri's motorcade along this city's famed seafront boulevard, also killing at least nine other people and injuring at least 100.

Lebanese television channel LBC said the dead included bodyguards of the 60-year-old former premier.

Two former ministers -- Samir al-Jisr and Bassel Fleihan -- also died in the explosion, the privately owned LBCI television said

Another television station said a car bomb caused the explosion.

It struck just as a convoy of four black limousines escorted by jeeps was passing, witnesses said.

Hariri died of his injuries from the blast, said sources at the American University hospital.

He was a self-made billionaire who had led Lebanon for most of the period since the civil war ended. He had been in a rivalry with pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud for years.

The explosion set ablaze cars and devastated buildings, leaving smouldering bodies in the streets, local television pictures showed.

The front of the famous St George hotel was devastated in the blast, with several balconies blown off. Along the famed Mediterranean corniche, at least 20 cars were in flames or destroyed, and the fronts of several other buildings were heavily damaged, including a British bank and the landmark Phoenicia hotel.

Television footage showed one person ablaze falling out of a burning car's window.

Passers-by were seen trying to rescue victims of the blast, covering them with jackets to douse the flames.

Heavily armed security forces cordoned off the area with yellow tape as rescue workers and investigators combed the scene, apparently looking for casualties or clues to what caused the huge explosion.

The destruction, reminiscent of horrific scenes from Lebanon's 1975 to 1990 civil war, caused terror in a wide area near the St George and Phoenicia hotels.

Explosions in Beirut have become rare since the conflict ended. However, in October, amid rising tension between the opposition and the government, a car bomb seriously injured an opposition politician and killed his driver in Beirut.

The cause of Monday's explosion was not immediately known.


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