Lebanon's defense minister wounded in explosion

Being a pro-Syrian politician in Lebanon has become extremely dangerous. Lebanon's outgoing deputy prime minister Elias Murr was wounded in a blast en route from his residence in Rabiya to Beirut.

A car bomb hit the motorcade of Elias Murr Tuesday, wounding him and killing at least one other person, police said. It was the first blast targeting a pro-Syrian politician in a string of bombings in Lebanon this year.

Elias Murr, who is also the outgoing defense minister, was slightly wounded in the blast, said one police officer at the scene. The explosion left one vehicle a charred and twisted wreck, and several nearby cars and buildings were damaged, reports the AP.

The state National News Agency said one person was killed and six wounded, including Murr and an army colonel in his escort. Police put the number of wounded at 10. Television footage showed one man, bloodied but sitting up and moving, being helped out of one of the cars.

Police said a vehicle packed with explosives went off as Murr's motorcade passed. The explosion knocked out a 2-meter-wide (yard) crater in the pavement and flung the booby-trapped vehicle over the stone wall of an adjacent villa. Murr's smashed car, a Porsche Cayenne four-wheel-drive, came to rest several meters (yards) from the crater.

Murr is the fifth personality to be targeted for assassination in the last year - but he is the first pro-Syrian among them to be hit.

In February, former prime minister Rafik Hariri was killed along with 20 others in a bombing on a Beirut street. Hariri's assassination led to mass anti-Syrian protests and intensified international pressure that forced Syria to withdraw its army from Lebanon in April.

But even after the Syrian withdrawal, bombings continued. In early June, anti-Syrian journalist Samir Kassir was killed in a bomb placed under his car. Just two days after a smashing victory of anti-Syrian opposition in Lebanon parliamentary elections a former Communist Party chief who was a harsh critic of Syrian meddling in Lebanese affairs, George Hawi, was killed in a car bomb explosion.

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