Beirut blast kills Hezbollah fighter

A member of Lebanon's militant Hezbollah group has been killed by a powerful car bomb in Beirut.

Hezbollah and a Lebanese Government minister blamed Israel for the blast on Saturday in a southern suburb dominated by the Iranian-backed group.

The group said Ali Hussein Saleh, 42, had taken part operations against Israeli forces occupying southern Lebanon before they pulled out three years ago.

At least one passer-by was injured as the blast tore through the vehicle which was parked on a busy street. It left a crater in the ground and propelled the car about 10 metres (30 feet), witnesses said.

At least two high profile political figures have been killed by car bombs in Lebanon in recent years, including the son of leading Palestinian militant Ahmed Jibril and former warlord Elie Hobeika.

Blown apart

The explosion happened during the morning rush hour on Beirut's main Hadi Nasrallah Street.

A security official told Reuters news agency: "He [the driver] started the engine, got going and went about 100 metres, then it blew him up. It appears to be a well-planned operation."

The man's body was torn to pieces by the bomb, which officials said was placed on the car's back seat.

Hezbollah tributes to the dead man described him as one of their Mujahideen - "a holy warrior".

Lebanese Culture Minister Ghazai al-Aridi told al-Jazeera TV that Israel was behind the attack on a man who was a "martyr and hero of Lebanese resistance to continued Israeli violations" of his country's territorial integrity.

There has been no comment so far from the Israelis, who usually reject Lebanese allegations of involvement in such incidents, says BBC regional analyst Magdi Abdelhadi.

The street where the attack took place was named after the son of the Hezbollah secretary general, killed fighting Israeli forces in southern Lebanon before Israel pulled out in 2000.

Hezbollah controversy

Hezbollah conducted a guerrilla campaign that helped drive the Israeli army from south Lebanon in May 2003, ending more than 20 years of occupation.

Despite the Israeli withdrawal, the border region between the two countries remains tense.

Hezbollah is regarded by the Israelis and the US as a terrorist organisation, but the Lebanese Government says it is a legitimate political party, represented in parliament.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3118633.stm