[This] attack follows a string of nearly a dozen bombings carried out in Lebanon in the past year, beginning with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri last February. Hariri had resigned from his post after turning against Damascus, and his death sparked massive rolling street protests that ultimately led to the final withdrawal of 14,000 Syrian troops from Lebanon. Tueni, like a handful of previous victims, was a staunch critic of Syria.
At least two others also died in the Tueni attack. Dazed and bloodied workers from nearby factories crunched across broken glass at the scene hours later; the smell of burned plastic and burned pine needles hung in the air as security forces wearing plastic gloves scoured the hillside looking for clues. For some Lebanese, the clues point to one culprit. “I accuse the military regime in Syria. I accuse the remnants of the military regime in Lebanon tied to Syria,” Nayla Moawad, a prominent MP from northern Lebanon, said at the offices of An Nahar. “This is a catastrophe.”
Hussein Malla / APTueni, in a file photo from June, 2005
The Syrian government quickly denied any involvement in Tueni’s assassination. But it’s clear that whoever carried out today’s bombing intended to send a message to the West. United Nations’ investigator Detlev Mehlis’s report on the murder of Hariri was released today and, as expected, the report points a finger at Syrian intelligence. The report goes even further, accusing the Syrian government of obstructing the investigation and harassing witnesses. Syria—already the target of a range of economic sanctions–could face further embargoes based on the findings. But after today’s bombing, some Lebanese no longer think the U.N. can curb Syrian influence in their country. “We have the Mehlis report but so what?” says Jean Luc Bersuder, a 48-year old photo editor at An Nahar. “It’s not over. Syria still has the capacity to make problems in this country.”
Tueni is not the first person working at An Nahar to be attacked. Last June, columnist Samir Kassir was killed by a car bomb. And in September, television anchor May Chidiac survived a bomb planted underneath her car but lost an arm and a leg as a result of the attack. Tueni knew the danger he was in: colleagues say he had received several death threats over the phone in recent months. He traveled with heavy security and even spent the past month in Paris to keep a low profile. In an interview with a NEWSWEEK reporter last April, Tueni made it clear exactly who he saw as the biggest threat. “I believe [the Syrians] will try to keep a lot of spies here,” he said. “They’re trying to say to the people: We’ll be back in Beirut. They know the psychological effects are very important. I’m sure they’re preparing something else.”
And this is the result:
Tens of thousands turn funeral into demonstration against Syria
Joseph Barrak / AFP – Getty Images
“We want your head, Bashar,” the crowds chanted in reference to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“We are here to revolt against the oppression and barbarity that is taking away our best men,” mourner Nabhan Abu Samra said.
Many thousands, most of them waving Lebanese flags, answered a call by anti-Syrian politicians for a large turnout at Tueni’s funeral, carrying his flag-draped coffin on their shoulders through the streets of central Beirut to the Greek Orthodox church where a service will be held.
“All of Lebanon bids goodbye today to the martyr of free speech Gebran Tueni,” said the frontpage headline of al-Mustaqbal newspaper, owned by the late Hariri.
The 48-year-old Tueni was among the most fiery critics of Damascus, publishing his biting editorials on the front-page of his an-Nahar newspaper, Lebanon’s leading daily.
Many Lebanese politicians have blamed Syria for Tueni’s murder, though Damascus has been quick to deny any involvement.
“Can no one say ’no’ in this country without being killed?” asked Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who campaigned for Syria’s withdrawal, in a call to LBC television on Tuesday night.
“I am threatened now … If what they want is to silence every opposition voice, then until when?”
Hussein Malla / APNayla Tueni, daughter of slain anti-Syrian journalist and legislator Gibran Tueni, mourns as she lays her hand on her father’s coffin, in the Beirut district of Ashrafieh, Lebanon, on Wednesday.
A Lebanese flag was draped over Tueni’s seat in parliament, which held a special session in his honor on Wednesday. A large banner bearing Tueni’s picture was draped over the headquarters of an-Nahar in downtown Beirut.
In Martyr’s Square, the crowds also repeated the vow Tueni led them in making on the same spot at a symbolic March 14 rally: “We swear by God Almighty, Muslims and Christians, to remain united and defend great Lebanon forever and ever.”
Sanaa Mansour, dressed from head to toe in a black Islamic cloak, said: “We are here to show solidarity with all Lebanese, Muslims and Christians, and to call for an end to this series of deaths and for the complete liberation of our country.”
There is a Syrian arrested over Beirut Car Bomb.
A Syrian was arrested Tuesday (12/27) on suspicion of involvement in the assassination earlier this month of Gebran Tueini, the anti-Syrian general manager and columnist of Lebanon’s leading newspaper. Abed al Kader Abed al Kader was among three Syrian nationals detained earlier for questioning in the Dec. 12 killing of Tueini.