updated 9/5/2006 6:32:49 AM ET 2006-09-05T10:32:49

A remote-controlled bomb wounded a senior police intelligence officer Tuesday and killed four aides and bodyguards in south Lebanon in an apparent assassination attempt, security officials said.

Lt. Col. Samir Shehade, who played a key role in investigating the slaying of a former Lebanese prime minister, was taken to the Hammoud hospital in Sidon, and hospital officials said his condition was stable.

The four dead were Shehade's aides and bodyguards, and another five were wounded in the attack, which occurred as Shehade's two-vehicle police convoy drove by the village of Rmaile, near the southern port city of Sidon.

Interior Minister Ahmed Fatfat told the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation that the blast was caused by a roadside bomb loaded with nails. He said it targeted the car normally driven by Shehade, who was traveling in the other vehicle at the time.

Fatfat did not say who might have been behind the attack but said it could have been aimed at Lebanese security forces, who are deploying to south Lebanon under a U.N.-brokered cease-fire deal that ended a month of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas Aug. 14.

Lebanese army troops are supposed to deploy in the south with a beefed-up U.N. peacekeeping force as Israeli troops withdraw.

The roadside bomb was detonated by remote control as the convoy traveled on a highway between two bridges, said security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press. Two of his bodyguards, Chief Sgt. Wissam Harb and Chief Sgt. Chehab Aoun, were killed. Two others later died of their wounds at a hospital.

Shehade's convoy was riddled with shrapnel and TV footage showed at least one bloodied man slumped on his seat in one of the cars. Police sealed off the area and began an investigation.

Investigation into Hariri's assassination
Shehade was involved in the arrest in August last year of four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals in Lebanon. The four were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Shehade is deputy chief of the intelligence department in Lebanon's national police force. Security sources said he was involved in the interrogation of several witnesses in the Hariri probe, including Syrian intelligence operative Husam Taher Husam.

The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, said Shehade had received threats because of his work in the Hariri probe.

The Tuesday explosion came 10 days before U.N. chief investigator Serge Brammertz was to submit a report to the U.N. Security Council updating his findings on the Hariri investigation.

Previous reports have implicated top Syrian and Lebanese security officials in the killing, which rocked Lebanese politics and led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, ending a 29-year-military presence.

Syria denies any role in the Hariri slaying or the subsequent bombings.

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