BEIRUT — A powerful car bomb tore through a business district in the center of the Lebanese capital Friday, killing a prominent pro-Western politician and at least five other people.
The blast, which wounded more than 70 others, set cars ablaze, shredded trees and shattered windows in a main street of the posh downtown Beirut area of five-star hotels, luxury high-rises and high-end boutiques. It sent a pall of thick black smoke above the nearby government headquarters and the seafront.
The bomb targeted the car of Mohammed Chatah, a former finance minister and a senior aide to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, security officials said. Chatah, his driver and four others were killed, the National News Agency said.
Hariri, a Sunni politician, heads the main, Western-backed coalition in Lebanon, which is engaged in bitter feuding with the militant Shiite Hezbollah group, a top ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The bombing recalled a string of assassinations of members of the anti-Syrian Hariri camp between 2004 and 2008, the biggest of which was the suicide bombing in 2005 in downtown Beirut — not far from the site of Friday's blast — that killed Hariri's father, Rafik, also a former prime minister. Hariri's allies accused Syria of being behind the killings, a claim Damascus denied.