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Car Bomb Kills 2 in Beirut

May 20, 2002

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BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ A bomb placed under the driver’s seat of a car exploded Monday, killing Jihad Jibril, the son of radical Palestinian guerrilla leader Ahmed Jibril and a senior military chief of a group the United States lists as terrorist.

The Syrian-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command blamed Israel and vowed to retaliate. The PLO faction, which has long opposed the Israel-Palestinian peace process and is on the U.S. State Department list of terrorist organizations, has focused its efforts on attacking Israel from bases in Lebanon in recent years.

Jihad Jibril, 38, who commanded the group’s military operations in Lebanon, was driving his Peugeot sedan down a street off the busy Corniche Mazraa in west Beirut when the bomb detonated at midday, Lebanese police said.

The blast wrecked the car, blew a hole in the street and scattered bits of Jihad’s body for several yards.

A police officer at the scene said a bomb of high-explosive plastic had been placed under the driver’s seat. It was not known how the bomb was detonated.

Prosecutor-General Adnan Addoum said Jihad Jibril’s body was identified by relatives and friends.

In Damascus, the Syrian capital, a somber Ahmed Jibril said he would not be daunted by the assassination of his son.

``He is just like the other martyrs falling on the land of Palestine,″ Jibril said as he received condolences from scores of supporters. ``We will stay the course of martyrs until victory and the achievement of our goals.″

Asked who was responsible for the assassination, Talal Naji, an aide to Ahmed Jibril, said: ``Israel alone.″

In Israel, Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer denied Israel was involved.

``Not everything that blows up in Beirut has to be connected to us,″ Ben-Eliezer told Israeli television.

Although other militant groups had eclipsed the Damascus-based PFLP-GC in the past decade, it continued to threaten Israel from Lebanon. Israeli fighter-bombers frequently struck its mountain base at Naameh, south of Beirut, until Israel withdrew from south Lebanon in 2000.

Last year, the Israeli navy intercepted a PFLP-GC shipment of arms from Lebanon to the Palestinians. In April, the group fired rockets across the Lebanese border into Israel, provoking the Lebanese government to arrest nine alleged members.

A member of the PFLP-GC executive, Omar Shehabi, vowed to avenge the killing.

``The response for the assassination will be on the same scale, but the time and circumstances will decide the nature of the operation and its timing,″ Shehabi said in Damascus. ``He was targeted because he was the son of Ahmed Jibril. He was a target of America and Israel because of his marks on the (Palestinian) struggle in Lebanon and the occupied territories.″

Jihad Jibril had taken military courses in Libya and had the rank of a lieutenant colonel.

PFLP-GC officials said his body would be transported to Damascus for a funeral Wednesday.

Jihad Jabril is survived by his wife and two sons, Ahmed, 10, and Ali, 6.

Founded as an offshoot of the PFLP in 1968, the PFLP-GC quickly gained a reputation for some of the wilder attacks against Israel. It hijacked an El Al jetliner in 1968 and machine gunned another at Zurich airport in 1969. In 1970, it planted a time-bomb on a Swissair jet that blew up on a flight from Zurich to Tel Aviv, killing all 47 on aboard.

During Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, the PFLP-GC captured three Israeli soldiers. It hung on to them until Israel agreed to hand over more than 1,100 Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian prisoners in 1985.

In a daring raid, a PFLP-GC guerrilla in a hang-glider flew from Lebanon into northern Israel in 1987 and killed six soldiers before being shot dead.

The PFLP-GC has been at odds for decades with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the PLO mainstream. It rejects any peace deal with Israel and does not recognize the Jewish state.

Car bombings were often used during the 1975-90 Lebanese civil war for settling scores among the various warring groups. But they have become rare since the government restored its authority in the years after the war.

However, in January a car bomb killed Elie Hobeika, a former Cabinet minister and ex-militia leader, and three bodyguards.

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