Oct. 20 - Lebanese army and security stepped up around a blast site which killed anti-Syrian intelligence officer and 7 others. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
A prominent Lebanese intelligence official opposed to President Bashar al-Assad was killed in a huge car bomb in Beirut on Friday (Oct 19) in another sign that Syria's civil war is dragging its volatile neighbour into the conflict. Wissam al-Hassan, who led an investigation that implicated Syria and Hezbollah in the assassination of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, and seven other people were killed when the bomb exploded in central Beirut on Friday afternoon. Hassan, a Sunni Muslim who was close to Hariri, also helped uncover a bomb plot that led to the arrest and indictment in August of a pro-Assad former Lebanese minister, in a setback for Damascus and its Lebanese allies including Hezbollah. The bombing was the most serious to hit the capital since Hariri's 2005 assassination and prompted Sunni Muslims to take to streets across the country, burning tyres and blocking roads in a show of sectarian anger. Hariri's son, Saad al-Hariri, accused Assad of being behind the bombing, while Lebanon's opposition March 14 bloc called on Prime Minister Najib Mikati's government, which includes ministers from Hezbollah, to resign over the bombing. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the "acts of terrorism" and called the murder of Hassan "a dangerous sign that there are those who continue to seek to undermine Lebanon's stability." Rubble and the twisted, burning wreckage of several cars filled the central Beirut street where the bomb exploded, ripping the facades and balconies off buildings. Firefighters scrambled through the debris and rescue workers carried off the bloodied victims on stretchers. In the confusion following the blast, it took several hours before any official word emerged that Hassan had been targeted. The bombing, which was reminiscent of scenes from Lebanon's own 1975-1990 civil war, ripped through a street near Sassine Square in Ashrafiyeh, a mostly Christian area.