Mohamad Chatah, the former ambassador to the United States and ex-finance minister of Lebanon was killed along with at least four other individuals in a bombing at the central business district of Beirut on Friday.
According to reports, Chatah was on his way to attend a meeting with politicians that opposed Syria when the explosion happened. His advisor and bodyguard also died and 70 people were injured.
Chatah is well known for criticizing President Bashar Assad of Syria. He is a Sunni Muslim and an aide to former Prime Ministers Saad al-Hariri and Rafik Hariri.
The parliament building and government headquarters is less than a hundred meters away from the location of the explosion, which was caused by a car bomb. It was also close to the Starco Center in downtown Beirut and near the place where PM Rafik Hariri’s convoy was bombed in 2005.
There had been a series of bombing in Lebanon over that past several months due to tensions brought by the civil war in Syria. Hariri is the head of the main coalition in the country against the militant Hezbollah group, an ally to Syrian Pres. Assad. Hariri’s coalition is supported by Western nations.
The tension between the Sunni and Shiite communities in Lebanon grew as each group supports their brethren in the ongoing conflict in Syria.
In an interview, Sami Nader, professor of international relations at St. Joseph University in Beirut commented, “This comes in the context of the Sunni-Shiite conflict triggered by the war in Syria.” He added that the bombing was a “direct message to the moderate Sunnis in Lebanon and their Saudi supporters.”
Prior to the explosion, Chatah sent tweets, which reads, “Hezbollah is pressing hard to be granted similar powers in security & foreign policy matters that Syria exercised in Lebanon for 15 yrs.”
Chatah received a Doctorate in Economics at the University of Texas in 1983. He served as Lebanon’s ambassador to the United States in 1997. He was also a former adviser to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).