Vatican condemns Beirut car bomb attack

The Vatican's spokesman is condemning the car bomb attack in Beirut which killed a leading Lebanese security official and seven other people while wounding dozens.

"The attack in Beirut deserves the firmest condemnation, for the senseless murderous violence which manifested itself and because it runs counter to the efforts and commitment to preserve a peaceful coexistence in Lebanon," Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican's press office, said Oct. 19.

He cited Pope Benedict XVI's call for Lebanon to be a witness to "peace and hope" for its residents and throughout the region.

He said the Holy See shares in the grief over the deaths and injuries of so many people and hopes that the "horrible act" does not cause the further spread of violence.

The deadly Oct. 19 attack on the convoy of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan took place in the mainly Christian neighborhood of Achrafieh. The blast tore the balconies off nearby apartment buildings, the Associated Press reports. At least 60 were wounded, 20 critically.

The security official had led the investigation into a bomb plot that led to the arrest of the pro-Syrian Lebanese Information Minister Michel Samaha. Samaha allegedly confessed to transporting explosives in his car from Syria to Lebanon to kill Lebanese figures opposed by the Syrian government.

A military court indicted Samaha and indicted in absentia Syrian Brig. Gen. Ali Mamlouk for plotting terrorist attacks inside Lebanon. The Syrian President Bashar Assad recently appointed Mamlouk to head Syria's National Security Bureau.

The conflict in neighboring Syria between government and rebel forces has killed an estimated 30,000 people. There are fears the violence could spread further into Lebanon, which has already witnessed occasional gun battles in the north.

Lebanon's Sunni Muslims tend to back the mainly Sunni Syrian rebels, while Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah movement allies with Assad. Assad is a member of the Alawite branch of Shiite Islam, which is a religious minority in Syria.

Lebanon's last major bombing was in 2008. A senior Lebanese anti-terrorism police official and four others were killed and 38 wounded in a bomb attack in the mainly Christian neighborhood of Hazmieh.

Pope Benedict visited Lebanon in September. At the close of this three-day visit, he appealed to members of all religions to be "peacemakers."

"In a world where violence constantly leaves behind its grim trail of death and destruction, to serve justice and peace is urgently necessary for building a fraternal society, for building fellowship," he said to hundreds of thousands gathered in Beirut for his visit's final Mass Sept. 16.

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