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French Version


Lebanese journalist seriously wounded in car bomb

LBC's May Chidiac in stable condition

May Chidiac, a prominent Lebanese journalist and host of a morning political talk show on the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) was seriously wounded when a bomb placed under her car exploded yesterday evening.

The incident is the latest in a string of bombings in the country dating back to the October 1, 2004, attempted assassination of Chouf MP Marwan Hamade.

Chidiac was inside her Range Rover when the bomb went off in Ghadir, a neighborhood near the Christian port city of Jounieh.

Chidiac was first taken to the nearby Notre-Dame du Liban Hospital in Jounieh for critical injuries, before being transferred to Hotel Dieu de France in Achrafieh.

"Her so-far relatively stable condition has made the transportation from one hospital to another easier for us," the volunteer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

According to a surgeon who treated Chidiac on arrival at Notre-Dame du Liban, the journalist had not lost consciousness. "Her limbs could be saved. Her face and hair were burnt," he said, denying earlier reports that she had her hand and leg had been amputated.

Security sources said the bomb consisted of half a kilogram of plastic explosives placed under the driver's seat, which caused part of the car's driver-side door to be blown off while the front of the vehicle was a twisted wreck with its hood left dangling from an olive tree some 10 meters away.

Speaking to reporters outside the hospital in Jounieh, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said that the bomb, like other recent explosions, was related to the investigation into the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 20 others on February 14.

"There is no doubt it is all related," he said. "We don't want to deny that. Whoever was behind this act will be brought to justice, and reprimanded."

By the time Chidiac arrived at Hotel Dieu, Siniora and President Emile Lahoud were both already there waiting.

In a press release issued immediately after the bombing, Hizbullah denounced the "heinous crime by all means because it targets public freedoms that all Lebanese people hold on to, and especially the freedom of the press. It also targets security and stability that are disturbed by strife and murder, and moved by enemy intelligence apparatuses."

Speaker Nabih Berri also condemned the assassination attempt, saying "The crime today is part of a series of several terrorist crimes attacking Lebanon to create a strife and chaos."

MP Michel Aoun said the attack specifically targeted the free press.

"Condemnation is not enough but we have to be outraged at the criminals and at the negligence of the government for not solving the crimes, especially as we still don't have one suspect from all the crimes that have happened in Lebanon," he said, adding that "the security apparatuses should take action in order to forestall the crimes in order to hold on to preventive security that is capable of extracting crimes."

MP Saad Hariri said "targeting May Chidiac is targeting Lebanon's value and freedom," adding: "If Marwan Hamade's crime was solved, then we wouldn't have had all these crimes occurring. We all demand to know the truth."

Both U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman and British Ambassador James Watt were among officials at Hotel Dieu. The European Commission issued a statement saying it was "saddened" by this latest attack on Lebanon's free press.

Earlier in the day, Chidiac, in her forties, hosted a morning political show with a leading political analyst from a local newspaper. During the show, Chidiac questioned her guest on the possible involvement of Syria in Hariri's assassination and discussed moves to isolate Syria and a possible regime change in Damascus.

As The Daily Star went to press, Dr. Antoine Zoughbi, Hotel Dieu's medical director, asserted to the press that Chidiac's condition was stable.

-----------------------------------------------

Chidiac 'represents the image of free media'

Television news anchor May Chidiac, who was seriously wounded when her car blew up on Sunday, is well known in Lebanon for her professionalism. Sources close to Chidiac said she was committed to an independent and sovereign Leb-anon, and opposed the Syrian control over Lebanon until Damascus withdrew its troops in April after a 29-year presence.

"May represents the image of the free media. She was targeted because of her politics," said MP Boutros Harb, as condemnation poured in of the apparent assassination bid.

Chidiac, 40, studied at the University of Lebanon's journalism faculty.

She worked for Voice of Lebanon radio, which belongs to the Kataeb Party, before joining the LBC television channel where she is a top news anchor and regular host of a political talk show.

"May is a kind, sincere and courageous woman, known for her questioning of political figures two or three times a week on a morning program to get the truth out of them," Jean Feghali, an LBC news director, said.

"She has a great sense of humor, is unconcerned about danger to herself and is well known to viewers because she also anchored the evening news three times a week," he added.

LBC was founded in 1985 by the anti-Syrian Lebanese Forces Party, of which Chidiac is a supporter. The Lebanese Forces is headed by Samir Geagea, who was freed from prison in July after 11 years in custody for crimes committed during the war.

Chidiac helped found a press club which hosted debates even under the former pro-Syrian regimes in Beirut.

Beirut 25-09-2005
Jessy Chahine
The Daily Star



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