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Lebanese Christian Militia Leader Killed By Car Bomb in Beirut

Aired January 24, 2002 - 05:12   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: We have breaking news to tell you about right now out of Beirut. An explosion there has taken the life of a former Christian militia leader.

CNN Beirut bureau chief Brent Sadler joins us on the phone with details. What happened, Brent?

BRENT SADLER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Carol.

This is the first major car bombing in Beirut for some eight years and it targeted a notorious former Lebanese Christian militia leader, Elie Hobeika. An explosion ripped through his four wheel drive vehicle as he was leaving his apartment in a Beirut suburb, a massive explosion which killed the 45-year-old Hobeika and three of his bodyguards. Several other people are reportedly injured from shrapnel and flying glass.

Hobeika was a so-called war lord from the Lebanese civil conflict, which ended more than a decade ago. Hobeika was widely held responsible for a massacre some 20 years ago of hundreds of Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatila camps just outside Beirut, in the same year that Israel invaded Lebanon to drive out Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's PLO fighters.

Back in 1982, the year of the massacres, Hobeika led the right- wing Lebanese forces militia, which under the eyes of the Israeli troops killed hundreds of men, women and children in those two refugee camps.

Israel's prime minister of today, Ariel Sharon, was defense minister at that time 20 years ago and was forced to step down from the defense post after an Israeli inquiry found Mr. Sharon indirectly responsible for the deaths of the Palestinians.

And it was only last July that Elie Hobeika held a press conference here in Beirut, saying that he was prepared to testify in an attempt to clear his own name during Belgian court proceedings being brought by victims of the Sabra and Shatila massacres, proceedings which they hope will see Ariel Sharon held responsible for those deaths, a case which could well be expected to rule on whether proceedings might be taken against Mr. Sharon by March the 6th of this year.

Back to you, Carol. COSTELLO: Thank you very much.

Brent Sadler reporting live for us from Beirut this morning.

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