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Jounieh's Bomb Wrecks Church, Radio Station, Triggers Lahoud-Jumblat Quarrel

May 06, 2005/Naharnet

A powerful bomb blast wrecked a church and an adjacent Christian radio station in the coastal town of Jounieh north of Beirut overnight and Gen. Aoun said the "terrorist bombing" would not scare him into delaying his victorious return to Lebanon Saturday from a14-year banishment in France.

"This is an attempt to terrorize the Lebanese in order to stop them from fighting with determination for a free and sovereign Lebanon," Aoun said from Paris. "We will reply to this on Saturday by holding a massive rally in Martyrs' Square" in downtown Beirut, he added.

Police said two people were killed and 16 wounded in the explosion of a 25-kilogram bomb at the entrance to Jounieh's old Souk, which touched off a public quarrel between President Lahoud and Druze opposition leader Walid Jumblat.

Jumblat, the spearhead of the opposition drive that contributed to Syria's termination of a 3-decade tutelage over Lebanon, charged that Syrian-affiliated intelligence services within the Lahoud regime were behind the Jounieh bombing.

"Legislator Jumblat has gone too far in his campaign of slander against the president. His unacceptable attitude is a national disgrace," said a statement released from Lahoud's presidential palace in Baabda.

Police said one of the dead from the explosion was a Sri Lankan woman, but did not give the name or nationality of the other fatality. A communiqué said three Egyptian workers were among the injured.

Army troops sealed off the blast scene as fire engines doused several burning shops from water hoses and ambulances with waling sirens evacuated the casualties to nearby hospitals.

The explosion ravaged the St. John Maronite Catholic church of Jounieh and the Christian radio station of Sawt Al Mahabba, or Radio Charity, which was broadcasting a program about the plight of Lebanese prisoners held in Syrian jails.

 Catholic Radio Station Bombed in Lebanon Bishop of Jbeil Says Action Was Deliberate

BEIRUT, Lebanon, MAY 9, 2005 ( An explosion in Lebanon destroyed the Voice of Charity Catholic radio station of the patriarchate of the Maronites. The blast in Jounieh, north of Beirut, killed two people and injured 27 on Friday. "I think it was hit directly and deliberately," said Bishop Bechara Rai of Jbeil of the Maronites on Vatican Radio. On Friday the radio station expressed its solidarity with family members of those imprisoned in Syrian jails in Damascus who "have denounced the atrocities of Damascus' prisons" and "what they saw." "I think those who have been harmed in Syria or Lebanon and their allies have organized this attack to destroy this voice not only of charity, but also of truth and of man," he explained. "This crime is an offense to God, to man and to Lebanese society. A pure manifestation of hate," Maronite Father Fadi Tabet, director general of the Voice of Charity, said to AsiaNews. The explosive device was planted in an abandoned house close by the only Christian radio in Lebanon. However, shortly after the explosion, the radio resumed its transmissions from other premises. The church of St. John the Apostle was almost completely destroyed. A historic altar and picture of the Apostle John which were burned, were considered works of internationally renowned artistic value. Since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri on Feb. 14, four bombs have exploded in Lebanon's Christian areas, killing three people and wounding about 40. After that date, Christian, Sunnite and Druse forces united to ask for the withdrawal of Syrian military forces and the government's resignation, considered close to Damascus. Thanks to pressure from the U.N. Security Council, the last soldiers returned to Syria April 30. The agency of the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions added that the Lebanese population has unanimously condemned the attack, not least because the radio has never been accused of fanaticism; even Muslim sources say it is a good instrument of interreligious dialogue. The damage done is estimated to be around $15 million. As Bishop Rai explained on Vatican Radio, the Voice of Charity produces programs in Arabic, as well as English and French for Asians living in Lebanon. The attacked radio "not only offers news relative to all the Churches and the whole life of the country and the Arab world, but is also open to other religions and communities," said the prelate. Every afternoon the Lebanese broadcasting station reproduces the news of Vatican radio and transmits papal celebrations. "All the people are in solidarity with this radio," he said, and confirmed that the Catholic community has appealed to the country's president and prime minister to begin the reconstruction. "In any case, if they don't do it there are many private individuals who will. The Lebanese are used to it. There is destruction today and reconstruction tomorrow," he noted. The country endured 15 devastating years of civil war which ended in 1991. About 40% of Lebanon's 4 million inhabitants are Christians, primarily Catholics of the Maronite rite. The majority of the population is Muslim.