BEIRUT: Prominent anti-Syrian MP Walid Ido, his eldest son and two bodyguards were killed along with six other people in a seafront blast in Beirut on 13 June, his party’s television station said.
Ido, 65, the chairman of parliament’s defence committee and a Sunni Muslim, was a member of the Future Movement of Saad Hariri, whose father and former premier Rafiq was assassinated in a similar blast more than two years ago.
The killing in the Manara area of mainly Muslim west Beirut, using a bomb-rigged car, was promptly condemned by the White House which strongly backs the government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, a Hariri ally.
“The United States deplores this latest attack in Beirut that led to the death of a respected Member of Parliament, Walid Eido and his son,” national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in a statement.
Lebanese Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh called the killing part of a “physical liquidation” being carried out by neighbouring Syria.
“It is the same serial killer who wants to liquidate the parliamentary majority; it is a physical liquidation by the Syrian regime,” he said.
In Paris, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner condemned the murder as an “odious and cowardly crime,” adding that “those responsible must be caught and punished.”
France has invited leaders of all Lebanon’s political groups for informal talks in Paris this month.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit called Ido’s killing a “cowardly act.”
The blast came as the Lebanese army continued to besiege Fatah al-Islam militants holed up inside a northern refugee camp and who have repeatedly threatened to attack targets elsewhere in the country.
Pieces of flesh and splashes of blood stained the ground as relief workers rushed to transport the wounded to hospital and to treat passers-by for shock, an AFP correspondent on the scene said.
The powerful explosion threw the body of one victim onto a nearby football pitch. A security official said 11 other people were wounded in the blast.
Windows shattered in many residences and hotels within a radius of several hundred metres (yards) from the site of the blast.
Troops cordoned off the area where there are a number of popular cafes and beaches, including the military beach club.
People were seen rushing to the beaches and cafes, calling out the names of missing relatives and friends.
Ido, a near-daily swimmer and card-player at the Sporting Club, became the third member of Lebanon’s parliamentary majority to be killed in a car bombing in the past two years.
The last political murder in Lebanon was of industry minister Pierre Gemayel in November.
He was president of the Beirut appeals court before becoming an active member of Rafiq Hariri’s parliamentary bloc in 2000. After Hariri’s assassination in 2005, Ido joined his son, Saad.
Ido’s killing was the latest in a spate of deadly bomb and grenade attacks in and around the capital that members of the ruling coalition have blamed on Damascus.
Immediately after news broke of the attack, dozens of angry youths closed the road near Ido’s home in the Verdun area of Beirut by burning tyres.
Meanwhile, two Lebanese soldiers were killed by sniper fire from inside the Nahr al-Bared camp, the site of the deadliest fighting in decades that has ignited fears about wider civil strife in the deeply divided country.
The deaths in Beirut and of the two soldiers brought to 140 the number of people killed, including 63 soldiers and 50 militants of Al-Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam since fighting broke out in the camp and nearby Tripoli on 20 May.
About 3,000 civilians were thought to remain stranded in increasingly desperate conditions inside the camp, one of 12 that house more than half of the estimated 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
The UN Security Council has voiced deep concern at continuing reports of arms smuggling across the border from Syria, amid fears of escalating strife in a country battling deep sectarian and political divisions.
UN Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen drew an “alarming and deeply disturbing picture” of the situation, citing Lebanese army reports of “a steady flow of weapons and armed elements across the border from Syria.”
A senior Syrian foreign ministry official was quoted by the official SANA news agency as calling Roed-Larsen’s claims “false.”
Members of Lebanon’s ruling majority have pointed the finger at Syria over the fighting, which briefly spread to the refugee camp of Ain al-Helweh in southern Lebanon, and to the series of bombings.
Syria was forced to end 29 years of military domination in Lebanon after it was widely accused of assassinating Rafiq Hariri.