Lebanon: Group claims responsibility for Tueni assassination, some point finger at Syria
Lebanese legislator and prominent journalist Gebran Tueni was killed in an explosion on Monday morning. Lebanese police reported that the blast in a Beirut district was most likely caused by a car bomb.
Responsibility was claimed for the blast by a previously unknown group named "Strugglers for the Unity and Freedom of the Levant." However, many see Damascus as being behind the attack, which also killed three others.
Tueni was known for his anti-Syrian ideology. Shortly after the blast, Lebanese sources confirmed to Albawaba that he died. Tueni was about to be interviewed by Albawaba regarding the latest developments in Lebanon.
Earlier this year, Tueni said that his name was listed among Lebanese politicians and journalists marked for assassination. He said in an interview published in August the death list containing his name was passed to him by the U.N. commission investigating ex-Premier Hariri's assassination through Lebanese authorities. Following Hariri's death, Tueni used to live also in France for fear of assassination. He ruturned to Beirut just on Sunday.
The explosion occurred in the mostly Christian neighborhood of Mekalis, in the eastern district of the Lebanese capital.
A Syrian official source was quick to condemn the car bombing. "This explosion comes at an intended date to direct accusations against Syria at this time in particular", the source told Sana.
Tueni, the editor of Beirut's mass circulation An-Nahar daily newspaper, was among the first public figures to call for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. After Rafik Hariri's assassination in February 2005, Tueni played a prominent role in the leadership of the mass demonstrations that succeeded in forcing Syria to pullout its forces from Lebanon, ending three decades of Syrian hegemony in Lebanese affairs. He was elected to parliament for the first time in the elections of May and June.
Tueni, 47, belonged to a family with a long tradition of journalism and public service in Lebanon. Al-Nahar was established by his grandfather in 1933. His father, Ghassan Tueni, ran the newspaper for decades, served in parliament, the cabinet, and represented Lebanon at the United Nations.
In December 1999, Tueni succeeded his father as managing editor of the paper. Tueni was also An Nahar's publisher and general manager.
In an editorial published by Tueni recently he accused Syria of trying to derail the international investigation into Hariri's murder, and warned of a possible wave of violence, as predicted by Druze leader Walid Jumblat, as part of the same plot. "The entire Lebanese nation is ready to testify against Syria and the crimes it committed against the Lebanese people, which President Assad has described as 'thankless' in his hostile speech," wrote Tueni.
Last week, Tueni claimed the Syrian security system was responsible for the mass graves found recently in Anjar and demanded an international investigation into thie affair.
Tueni has also recently intesified his calls on Hizbullah to hand over its weapons to the Lebanese Army, stressing that Hizbullah's role is being diminished whenever it is restricted to military actions.