Ex-militia head tied to Palestinian massacres killed
Hobeika dies in Beirut car bombing
BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- The former Christian militia leader Elie Hobeika, who had been tied to 1982 Palestinian refugee camp massacres, died in an explosion Thursday near his home in the suburbs of Beirut, government sources said.
In the first major car bombing to hit Lebanon in eight years, three of the former Lebanese minister's bodyguards also were killed in the blast and other people were injured, some seriously, the sources said. Lebanese government sources called it a "targeted assassination."
Witnesses said Hobeika's sport utility vehicle blew up 500 meters (about 550 yards) from his home as he and his bodyguards were heading for the beach. The effects of the blast could be seen several stories up the side of adjacent buildings.
Hobeika, 45, was well-known for his activities during the 15-year Lebanese civil war. He was the head of the largely Christian Lebanese Forces militia group. After the war, Hobeika served in several cabinet positions, including minister of energy, a job he left in 1998.
But he is best known for accusations surrounding his role in the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian men, women and children in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Muslim west Beirut in 1982, a year after Israel's invasion of Lebanon to drive Palestinian Liberation Organization fighters out of the country.
Hobeika's last public appearance was at the end of last year when he said he would be "telling the truth" about his role in the Sabra and Shatila atrocities, saying he was not guilty of the crimes committed.
Hobeika had said he was willing to go to a Belgian court, which may take up proceedings against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was Israel's defense minister at the time of the massacres.
A 1993 Belgian law allows local courts to try any person accused of war crimes, regardless of his nationality, position, or where the crime took place. The law allows victims to seek cases against suspected war criminals, and the local Belgian courts look into their breach of the Geneva War Crimes Convention.
Complaints filed by survivors of the massacres allege that Israeli forces provided shielding while the Christian militia killed as many as 2,000 Palestinians inside refugee camps to clear out what were being called Palestinian terrorists.
An official Israeli inquiry found Sharon indirectly responsible for the killings, saying he did nothing to stop the militias from entering the camps, despite fears that the militiamen might seek revenge for the death of their leader the previous day. As a result, Sharon was forced to resign from his position of minister of defense.
The Belgian courts have been approached by people from many nations seeking redress for alleged war crimes. Thirty Israelis with relatives killed in Palestinian terrorist attacks, for example, have brought a case against Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat.
The first case to be tried under Belgium's war crimes law led to the conviction of four Rwandans, including two nuns, for their role in the 1994 genocide that left up to 800,000 Rwandans dead. Other complaints pending target Iraq's President Saddam Hussein, Chile's former leader Augusto Pinochet, and the leaders of Chad, Guatemala and Cote d'Ivoire.
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