A powerful car bomb flung glass and heavy strips of metal across a wide intersection in downtown Beirut -- the capital of Lebanon -- today (December 27, 2013), killing a former cabinet minister and underscoring Lebanon's growing instability as it absorbs the impact of neighboring Syria's increasingly bloody civil war, the Washington Post reports.
Mohamad Chatah -- a senior aide to former prime minister Saad Hariri and member of Lebanon's Future Movement party -- was killed in the blast. Chatah, a Sunni Muslim, served as Hariri's finance minister and was Lebanon's ambassador to the United States from 1997 to 2000. At least four other people were also killed in today's explosion and 75 were injured.
Chatah's assassination fueled fears that Lebanon may soon be forced to revisit its own brutal civil war some 40 years ago. The country so far has been unable to free itself from the powerful sway of a Syrian conflict that is fast engulfing this turbulent region.
"You now have a Lebanon that will be engaged in a tit-for-tat to the extreme," said Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center. "Whether that takes it into civil war, God only knows." But Chatah's killing marks "a dangerous forebear for how 2014 can unfold," he added.