Beirut, Lebanon - Could the assassins be more obvious? Amidst political turmoil with pro-Syrian Hezbollah and Aoun threatening to overthrow the government, an anti-Syrian minister is murdered.
Gemayel was shot in his car in Jdeideh, a Christian neighborhood, his constituency on the northern edge of Beirut, witnesses said. A car rammed his vehicle from behind and then a gunman stepped out and shot him at point-blank range, they said.
Gemayel was rushed to a nearby hospital and was later announced dead.
Just four days ago, anti-Syrian politician Samir Geagea predicted that the pro-Syrian camp would resort to assassinations in order to have its way in bringing down the government.
Geagea, a former militia chief whose Lebanese Forces party has one minister in the cabinet, said Syria was determined to stop the formation of a UN-backed tribunal to try suspects in the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.
Geagea said that the government now has 17 ministers, if 3 of these ministers were eliminated then the government will automatically fall.
Pick your poison: Al Qaeda or Syria/Iran
One week ago Al-Qaida issued a statement threatening to topple Premier Fouad Saniora's "corrupt" government, according to Al-Hayat newspaper Monday.
"The organization has arrived in Lebanon and we will work on destroying this corrupt government that receives orders from the American administration," Al-Hayat said, quoting the statement.
Although al-Qaida has rarely carried out attacks in Lebanon, it is believed to have sympathizers among extremist factions in Palestinian refugee camps.
Interior Minister Ahmed Fatfat has warned in recent months that al-Qaida was attempting to establish itself in Lebanon.
In December, al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility for a rocket attack into northern Israel apparently carried out by a radical Palestinian group, and Fatfat has said Lebanese authorities had broken up four al-Qaida cells this year.
Syria and Iran have both been outspoken critics of the government, with a vested interest in the Hariri tribunal. Their allies in Lebanon consist of Hezbollah, Michel Aoun and Nabih Berri, all of who have repeatedly threatened to oust the government at any cost.
Killing the youth
Around the house of the Gemayel family in Hurj Tabet in Christian east Beirut angry crowd chanted 'God bless Lebanon' and wailed the young minister who is in thirties, who is married with two children.
Metn MP Pierre Gemayel is son of the former President Amin Gemayel and grandson of late Sheikh Pierre Gemayel, the founder of the Kataeb party and a prominent politician. Pierre Gemayel is said to be a high caliber diplomat, and a skilled, ambitious politician who is following the footsteps of his father.
Gemayel, a lawyer, was the youngest Member of Parliament elected. First elected in 2000, Gemayel was the victor in a tough election battle in 2005.
Pierre Gemayel was re-elected into the parliament in the Metn district of Mount Lebanon on June 14, 2005. Nassib Lahoud was the runner up in that electoral district, which may open the door for him to step in to replace the slain minister.
Nassib Lahoud, a distant relative of the President Emile Lahoud, and a former Ambassador to United States is a widely respected politician. His supporters praise him for being a moderate, someone who has sufficient diplomatic and political experience to become a leader of Lebanon.
Saad Hariri, son of Rafik Hariri who was assassinated on February 14, 2005, responded to the latest bloodshed in pursuit of justice for his father. In an interview with CNN, Hariri praised him as "a friend, a brother to all of us" and appeared to break down after saying:
"The cedar revolution is under attack...Today one of our main believers in a free democratic Lebanon has been killed. We believe the hand of Syria is all over (this).
The people of Lebanon will not give up on the international tribunal. This will make them even more determined. We will bring justice to those who killed Pierre Gemayel."
The U.S. State Department denounced Tuesday's assassination of Lebanese Christian leader Pierre Gemayel as an act of terrorism.
"We are shocked by this assassination," Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told reporters.
Syria also reacted by condemning the assassination:
"This despicable crime aims to destroy stability and peace in Lebanon."
Today is the day before Lebanon's Independence Day. Just as Valentines Day was solemn in 2005 following the Hariri assassination, Lebanese will not have much to celebrate on Independence Day in 2006.
Photos of Gemayel's vehicle, where he was shot at point blank range:
View the Pierre Gemayel Photo Gallery
Sources: Ya Libnan, Reuters, Washington Post, AP, IHT
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