Car Bomb Kills Five, Two Leftist Leaders Killed
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ A car packed with 45 pounds of TNT exploded Monday near a supermarket in Christian east Beirut, setting an apartment building on fire and killing five people, police said.
Police said the explosion, which also injured 20 people, would have been more deadly if mortar shells and anti-tank mines attached to the bomb had been detonated.
In other developments, police said unidentified gunmen assassinated a leftist pro-Palestinian militia leader in his apartment, and the bullet- riddled body of a kidnapped Communist Party leader was found in a beachside neighborhood.
Party leaders blamed the extremist Shiite Moslem Hezbollah militia, which had battled overnight with Communist Party militiamen. Police said at least one Shiite was killed in the fighting.
No group claimed responsibility for the car bomb, which police said set an apartment block on fire and destroyed 15 cars in the Sin el-Fil district.
Health Minister Joseph Hashem said that a man about 20 years old parked the car, a blue Honda, next to a truck belonging to French members of an observation team monitoring truce violations in Lebanon’s civil war.
″He greeted the observers in French and walked casually away,″ Hashem told reporters after visiting the scene.
The bomb exploded 15 minutes later as one French observer, suspicious of the car, was running to raise the alarm.
It was the latest in a string of bomb attacks in east Beirut since January, when President Amin Gemayel scuttled a Syrian-backed armistice for ending the civil war.
Since then, pro-Syrian leftist and Moslem militias have united in efforts to oust Gemayel, a Maronite Catholic. A total of 45 people have been killed and about 180 injured in the series of bombings, some of which have targeted offices of Gemayel’s Phalange Party.
Soon after the bomb blast, police reported that unidentified gunmen assassinated Issam el-Arab, 42, chieftain of the leftist Nasser Forces militia in Moslem west Beirut.
The Nasser Forces is a small, Libyan-backed Sunni Moslem militia that once controlled a stretch of the Green Line that splits Beirut into Christian and Moslem sectors. El-Arab was nicknamed ″the Green Line butcher″ for the kidnap slayings of Christians early in the civil war.
The militia has kept out of sight since Palestinian guerrillas were forced out of west Beirut during Israel’s 1982 invasion.
Militia sources have reported that Sunni fighters, beaten by rival factions last April, have been re-armed by the Palestinians and are preparing to take revenge for their defeat.
Police also reported that the body of Suhail Tawileh, a Communist Party Central Committee member, was found in the beachside Normandie neighborhood.
Tawileh, a Greek Orthodox, was kidnapped by gunmen Sunday night. He was editor of the Moscow-oriented party’s magazine, Al-Tarik.
He was the third Central Committee member assassinated in the last two weeks. Khalil Naouss was shot to death in west Beirut last Thursday, and the body of Michel Waked, head of the party’s Cultural Department, was found Feb. 7, 64 days after he had been kidnapped.
Other Communist officials have been wounded in attacks.
Tension has mounted between the Communist Party and Shiite groups in recent weeks. Amal has rounded up scores of Communists in Shiite-dominated southern Lebanon.
Communist officials met Monday at the Iranian Embassy with officials of Hezbollah and the dominant Shiite militia, Amal, in an effort to prevent more fighting.
Hezbollah, or the Party of God, espouses the Islamic fundamentalism of Iran’s revolutionary leader, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The Iranian Embassy, located in a Hezbollah-controlled district, was hit by at least five rocket-propelled grenades in the overnight battles, charge d’affaires Mahmoud Nourani said.