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Assassinations in Lebanon: A History (1970s to the Present)

Murder as Politics by Other Means

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Assassinations in Lebanon: A History (1970s to the Present)

Lebanon's Rafik Hariri was assassinated on Feb. 14, 2005.

Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images
Updated May 24, 2009

In war and peace, assassinations punctuate Lebanese history. Here’s a list of assassinations of prominent Lebanese figures, including journalists, intellectuals, politicians, clerics and glamorized toughs going back to the 1970s, after the outbreak of civil war. The list is updated as warranted.

The 1970s

March 16, 1977: Kamal Jumblatt, 60, leader of Lebanon’s Druze community, a member of the Lebanese Parliament and a Socialist-nationalist supporter of Palestinians, is assassinated by the Syrian Social Nationalist Party — which Jumblatt had legalized as interior minister some years earlier. Jumblatt was also the founder of the Progressive Socialist Party. He is succeeded by his son, Walid.

June 13, 1978: Tony Frangieh, 36, the son of former Lebanese President Suleiman Frangieh, a Christian Maronite, is assassinated at his home in Ehden, in northern-Lebanon, along with his 2-year-old daughter, his wife, and 32 supporters, in the course of a long battle with the Christian Phalangist militia of Bashir Gemayel, a rival.

The 1980s

March 9, 1980, Salim Lawzi, editor of the London-based Arabic weekly Al Hawadess (the events) is found dead in Beirut. Unidentified gunmen had kidnapped him and his wife two weeks earlier as he drove to Beirut airport. The gunmen had released Lawzi's wife.

July 23, 1980, Riyad Taha, 53, a publisher and for 13 years the president of the Lebanese Publishers' Association, is machinegunned to death with his chauffeur in front of Beirut's Hotel Continental after a chase through the city. The assailants get away. The assassination is never investigated. Taha was a critic of Syrian occupation.

September 14, 1982: Lebanese President-elect Bashir Gemayel, 34, is assassinated when a bomb demolishes the building housing his Phalangist Party headquarters, where he had been meeting with staff.

June 1, 1987: Lebanese Prime Minister Rashid Karami, 65, a Sunni Muslim who’d been prime minister 10 times in 32 years, is assassinated when a bomb rips through his military helicopter, a French-built Puma. He’d been traveling from his native city of Tripoli in North Lebanon to Beirut after a holiday marking the end of Ramadan. Karami had been backed by Syria, then occupying Lebanon.

May 16, 1989: Hasan Khaled, 68, for 23 years the Grand Mufti of Lebanon — that is, the supreme Justice of Lebanon’s Sunni Muslim community — is assassinated by a 300-pound car bomb as he drove through West Beirut’s in Aishe Bakkar neighborhood. His son-in-law and 20 other people are also killed. Khaled had been a moderate Muslim, advocating coexistence between Lebanon’s numerous factions.

September 22, 1989: Nazem el Qadri, 73, a Sunni Muslim member of Lebanon's legislature for 38 years. Three assassins gun him dcown as he leaves a barber shop on Beirut's Verdun Street. He dies instantly. The assassins, who get away, also kill el Qadri's driver and injure two passers-by. Lebanese legislators at the time are preparing to negotiate an agreement, in Taif, Saudi Arabia, to end the Lebanese civil war and set a deadline for Syrian occupation to end. El Qadri had just been critical of the Syrian presence. His assassination, though never investigated, was likely Syria's signal to other legislators not to press for a Syrian withdrawal. November 22, 1989: Lebanese President René Moawad, 64, in office just 17 days, is assassinated as his car is blasted by a bomb on his return from Independence Day ceremonies in West Beirut. Twenty-three other people are killed. Moawad, a Maronite Christian, had sought to establish a unity government to end the Lebanese civil war, then in its 14th year.

The 1990s

October 21, 1990: Dany Chamoun, 56, a Maronite Christian and the son of former Lebanese President Camille Chamoun, is assassinated at his home in East Beirut by gunmen posing as Lebanese army soldiers. His wife and two sons are also murdered. Chamoun had been an ally of Gen. Michel Aoun, the renegade army general who’d opposed the Syrian-backed Government of President Elias Hrawi. Chamoun was also a rival to Samir Geagea, a ruthless Christian militia who, in a war ruinous to the Christian community, unsuccessfully fought Aoun for military leadership of Lebanon’s Christians.

The 2000s

February 14, 2005: Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, 60, is assassinated as a 1,000-pound truck bomb explodes while Hariri’s convoy travels near the St. George Hotel on Beirut’s seafront. Hariri, a Sunni Muslim formerly accommodating of Syria, had become a staunch critic of Syria’s occupation of Lebanon. His assassination triggers massive rallies in opposition to the occupation. The so-called Cedar Revolution leads to the withdrawal of Syrian troops that spring, after a 29-year occupation.

June 2, 2005: Samir Kassir, 45, influential Christian author, columnist and relentless critic of Syria at the leading Lebanese Arabic-language daily Al-Nahar, is assassinated when a bomb under the seat of his Alfa Romeo explodes as he stepped into his car in Christian East Beirut. His father was Lebanese-Palestinian, his mother was Syrian.

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