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Heavy explosion in downtown Beirut kills former govt minister

A large explosion has shaken the downtown area of the Lebanese capital, killing former government minister Mohammed Shattah. Lebanese television showed footage of dead bodies lying near the wreckage.

At least 5 people were killed in the explosion that went off just a few hundred meters from the parliament building and other official government headquarters, said Reuters, citing security sources.

Ambulances rushed to the site of the explosion. Almustaqbal TV Lebanon broadcast footage of the aftermath, with burning cars and rubble littering the street.

The Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation reported the blast was caused by a booby-trapped car.

Mohammed Shattah had previously been advisor to former Prime Ministers Fuad Siniora and Saad Hariri and had also served as Lebanon’s envoy to Washington.

Former Prime Minister Hariri laid the blame for the attack at the feet of Hezbollah following the attack.

Shattah had reportedly been on his way to a meeting of the March 14 Alliance due to be held at the Center House in the downtown area, when his convoy was hit by the blast.

The Alliance is made up of representatives from political parties and individuals who are against the current regime in neighboring Syria. The on-going violence in Syria has spilled over the border into neighboring Lebanon on a number of occasions, where the population is divided over its support of embattled President Bashar Assad.

Mohammed Shattah was an outspoken critic of Bashar Assad and had openly voiced his opposition to the influence of Hezbollah in Lebanon.

People run to help a wounded man as smoke rises from the site of an explosion in Beirut's downtown area December 27, 2013. (Reuters/Jamal Saidi)
Lebanese army personnel run at the site of an explosion in Beirut's downtown area December 27, 2013. (Reuters/Steve Crisp)
Civil Defence personnel extinguish fires on cars at the site of an explosion in Beirut downtown area December 27, 2013. (Reuters/Steve Crisp)