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Archive for Monday, May 20, 2002

Beirut blast kills son of Palestinian guerrilla leader

May 20, 2002

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— The 38-year-old son of Palestinian guerrilla leader Ahmed Jibril was killed Monday in a Beirut car bombing, the group said.

Jihad Jibril was a senior commander of military operations in Lebanon for his father's faction of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which is on the State Department list of terrorist organizations for its attacks on Israelis and its opposition to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

A somber-looking Ahmed Jibril accepted condolences at his office in Damascus, Syria, shortly after receiving the news but did not comment. An aide blamed "Israel alone." Ahmed Jibril's wife, Um Jihad, wept when told by telephone that her son was killed. News of the attack was first broadcast on radio and television in the Lebanese capital.

There was no immediate comment from Israel on charges it was behind the bombing.

PFLP-GC officials in Damascus would not immediately discuss what had happened. They said Jihad Jibril's body would be taken to Damascus for a funeral Tuesday.

Jibril's PFLP-GC is a small Syrian-based guerrilla group that rejected peace with Israel and opposed the Oslo process that started negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians after secret talks that concluded in 1993. Jibril and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat have been enemies for at least two decades.

In one of its most notorious attacks, a PFLP-GC guerrilla landed a hang-glider near a military outpost in northern Israel in November 1987 and killed six soldiers with hand grenades and a machine gun before being killed himself.

Last month, the senior Jibril warned that suicide bombings against Israelis would continue in retaliation for Israeli military attacks.

However, the PFLP-GC has not claimed responsibility for suicide bombings since the latest violence erupted in September 2000. Last month, the PFLP-GC and two other rival groups each claimed to have blown up an Israeli tank in the Gaza Strip.

But the PFLP-GC was accused by Lebanese authorities of firing rockets across the Lebanese border into Israel in April at the height of the West Bank offensive and of seeking to launch more attacks on the Jewish state. Nine Palestinians who Lebanese authorities said belonged to the PFLP-GC have been arrested on charges of illegal possession of weapons and threatening national security.

Last year, Jibril acknowledged that his group had sent to the Palestinian territories a weapons shipment that was seized by the Israeli navy and he promised more to come.

Monday's blast occurred at midday on a street off the busy shopping area of Corniche Mazraa in Beirut's Muslim sector.

A Lebanese police official at the scene, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the explosion was caused by a small stick of plastic explosive that was placed under the driver's seat of the Peugeot sedan.

The blast wrecked the car, shattering its windows and turning its front section into a twisted heap. Its white rear door had turned red with the victim's blood and flesh was scattered for a few yards around the car.

The blast also damaged neighborhood shops and parked cars but, apart from the driver, there were no other casualties.

Jihad Jibril was commander of military operations in Lebanon and a member of the PFLP-GC's executive committee leadership. He had taken military courses in Libya and had the rank of a lieutenant colonel. In addition to his military activities, he was in Lebanon studying law at a Beirut university. He is survived by his wife and two sons, 10-year-old Ahmed and 6-year-old Ali.

During the 1975-90 Lebanese civil war, car bombs were frequent in Lebanon as a way to settle scores among the various warring groups. But they had become rare as the government restored its authority across the country.

Most recently, a January car bomb killed Elie Hobeika, a former Cabinet minister and ex-militia leader, along with three bodyguards.

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