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Lebanon blast kills army general

From Brent Sadler



Retrieved from CNN on December 12, 2007

 BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- A top-ranking Lebanese army general was killed in an explosion in Beirut's Christian suburb of Baabda Wednesday, military intelligence sources told CNN. At least three others died in the attack.

 Brig. Gen. Francois Al-Hajj was the head of operations for the Lebanese army and was believed to be a top candidate to replace Gen. Michel Suleiman as army commander should Suleiman be elected president.

 The explosion took place in the same district as the Presidential Palace of Baabda, a heavily fortified area, and amid political turmoil, as pro- and anti-Syrian lawmakers are locked in a battle to elect a new president. Despite general agreement on Suleiman to fill the vacant presidency, political wrangling has kept a vote from taking place so far.

 The failure to settle on a candidate has led to a power vacuum. The army and other security forces have been on full alert, as the nation braced itself for possible violence.

 In recent months, reports have emerged that the Christian and Muslim sectors of the community have been stockpiling weapons. In addition, the United Nations has some 13,000 soldiers in the south.

 The country's recent history includes near-constant factional fighting, political maneuvering and friction with Syria, along with assassinations and attempted assassinations of anti-Syrian politicians.

 The assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut in February 2005 sparked widespread protests that led to the ouster of Syrian forces from Lebanon.

 U.N. investigators concluded last year that Hariri's death may be linked to high-ranking Syrian officials.

 Syria has denied any involvement in the killings and said the U.N. tribunal's investigation of Hariri's death is a violation of its sovereignty.

 In the past two years, four members of parliament have been assassinated.