A prominent Lebanese anti-Syrian news anchor was seriously wounded when a bomb blew up her car on Sunday, fuelling fears of a slide into violence as the U.N. wraps up a probe into the murder of an ex-prime minister.
May Chidiac, 43, a Christian journalist, is a familiar face to Lebanese. She had hosted a talk show earlier in the day to discuss public fears of more violence ahead of the U.N. investigators presenting their report, expected next month.
A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said the bomb was planted under the driver’s seat of Chidiac’s white four-wheel drive and was made up of less than two pounds of plastic explosives. Television footage from the scene showed part of the car’s left door was blown off while the front of the vehicle was a twisted wreck.
It exploded as she was getting in, destroying the car.
Late Sunday, Hotel Dieu Hospital in Beirut reported that Chidiac’s left arm and leg were severed in the blast and her right leg and pelvis were broken. A hospital statement said she was suffering from various injuries and burns all over her body, adding that her vital organs were “stable” but would need careful monitoring over the next few days.
‘A pattern of onslaught’
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on the authorities to arrest the perpetrators and appealed to Lebanese to preserve national unity.
“The secretary-general believes the international community should not tolerate such terrorist attacks,” U.N. chief spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
“Such callous acts now form a pattern of onslaught, not only against Lebanese citizens, but also against the principles of a democratic open society, which most importantly includes the freedom of press.”
A series of explosions has rocked Lebanon in recent months. The killing of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in February threw the country into its worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
An anti-Syrian politician and columnist were killed in Lebanon earlier this year and an explosion wounded pro-Syrian Defense Minister Elias Murr in July.
“May Chidiac, who is known through the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation for her courageous stance, was targeted by this explosion,” her colleague Yazbeck Wehbe said from the blast scene in Ghazir north of the capital Beirut.
Chidiac began reading the news on LBC, a Christian-owned channel that has long been critical of Syria’s domination of Lebanon, 20 years ago in the midst of the civil war.
“Is this a message to our colleague May, or to the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation as a whole or to Lebanon’s media body or to political freedom in Lebanon?” LBC said in an editorial message at the start of its news broadcast.
More attacks feared
Many Lebanese have blamed Damascus for the spate of killings since Hariri’s murder, all of which have gone unpunished.
Syria denies any role in them, although the U.N. inquiry has already led to the arrest of four pro-Syrian generals on charges of murder.
Hariri’s murder prompted intense global pressure and Lebanese street protests that forced Syria to pull its troops out of its neighbor in April after 29 years.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, a close aide of the late Hariri, predicted more attacks ahead of the U.N. report.
“Other attempts may be made. We are paying the price of freedom and independence,” he told reporters. “What we are seeing is part of the ... preparations for handling the results of the probe.”
Sunday’s explosion appeared similar to that which killed newspaper columnist Samir Kassir, also a sharp critic of Syria, in his car on June 2.
George Hawi, a former Lebanese Communist Party leader and critic of Syria, was killed by a blast in his car the same month.