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Lebanese TV station hit by rockets

Two rockets struck a television station in Beirut owned by Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri early on Sunday, setting some studios ablaze but causing no injuries.

Last Modified: 15 Jun 2003 09:01 GMT

Two rockets struck a television station in Beirut owned by Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri early on Sunday, setting some studios ablaze but causing no injuries.

The missile attack left extensive
damage but no casualties

Future's Executive Director Ali Jaber told Aljazeera two missiles were fired at about 1:30 am (2230 GMT Saturday) from a parking lot facing the station, piercing the walls and exploding inside.

Jaber said the television had not received any threats prior to the attack.

A previously unknown group calling itself Ansar Allah (Supporters of God) claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement faxed to Reuters.

   

"Our...operation comes to affirm anew that we will not allow anyone, regardless of their influence and position, to direct their poisoned arrows at the heart of the resistance and jihad (holy struggle)...and take a stab at their legitimacy," it said.

   

"This operation is nothing but a warning and the first...of future directed operations that will be more severe."

   

A group of the same name said it carried out a 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires, but Lebanese officials dismissed the claim as fake.

 

It was not clear whether this earlier Palestinian-led group was linked to Sunday's statement.

Well-organised attack

The 107-mm rockets damaged equipment in the main television studio and Radio Orient, which is also owned by Hariri.

Initial investigations revealed the attack was carried out from an unmarked car.

"It was clear that the attack was well-organised," said Jaber, adding they considered the strike a message.

"We don't know who would benefit from doing such a thing or why," said Jaber. “There is no doubt it is serious and it is meant to be a message for the television but we don’t know who from.”

Future Television’s news chief Hani Hammoud condemned the strike as a "cowardly attack on journalists and the country's stability".

Security forces have spread out in the surrounding area. Jaber said the station was taking extra precautions while authorities investigate the incident.

Further damage had been prevented when the station’s security guards cleared nearby gas tanks.

The station was still broadcasting on Sunday.

Hariri visited the scene but did not make any statements to journalists.

Country’s stability targeted

Lebanon's Information Minister Michel Samaha condemned the overnight strike, which he said shook the stability of the whole country.

"This message is not directed at Future Station only, it hits the stability and security of the country and we condemn this act in the strongest terms," he said after touring the seafront site.

Smaha took part in a sit-in organised by the Lebanese Journalists Association to condemn the attack which participants said "targeted the freedom of speech" in the country.

Lebanese authorities have detained more than 30 people in recent weeks in connection with a series of bombings against American restaurant chains and an alleged plot to attack the US embassy.

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