Church bomb killings linked to Christian feud

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BEIRUT - Ten Christians were killed and another 30 wounded in Lebanon yesterday morning when a bomb exploded in a packed Maronite church. The dead included a four-year-old girl, writes Robert Fisk.

The 5kg (11lb) device was attached to two mortar bombs and a timing device. It exploded near the altar as the priest read from the scriptures, devastating the Our Lady of Deliverance Church in Zouk Mikael, a coastal community in Lebanon's Christian heartland north of Beirut.

The Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri, blamed an 'unseen hand', while ministers claimed Israel may have planned the bombing to distract attention from the Hebron massacre. However, the slaughter could have been the result of an inter-Christian Lebanese militia feud. Another explosive device - five mortar bombs linked to a remote-control mechanism - was found in the church organ and defused.

It was the first such attack in a church in Lebanon, which was plagued by bombings during its 1975-1990 war, and comes three months before a visit to the country by the Pope.