BEIRUT — Three gunmen today shot and killed a French secret service agent as he drove his car through an intersection during the noon rush hour in Christian East Beirut.
Police said Jacques Meurant, 27, was driving in the Dora neighborhood when the unidentified gunmen intercepted him and opened fire, making Meurant the fifth French national to be killed in Christian Lebanese areas in more than a year.
One of the assailants opened fire on Meurant with a silencer-equipped Czech-made gun, lodging one bullet in his head, another in his abdomen and two in his hand, a police source said.
Police said the assailants fled toward the nearby neighborhood of Ashrafiyeh. Meurant was rushed to the Hotel Dieu hospital, where he died in the emergency room, a source at the hospital said.
Francois Abi Saab, the French Embassy's press attache, claimed Meurant was a commercial representative for a French electronics company and came to Lebanon often.
However, the Voice of Lebanon, a radio station based in East Beirut and run by the Christian militiamen who control the streets in that sector of the city, said he worked for the "French (Embassy) security" apparatus. And militia security sources said he was deputy chief of the Lebanon desk in the French Secret Service.
In Paris, Premier Jacques Chirac expressed dismay about the killing but said it is too early for specific comments about the case. He told television Antenne 2 that France has received no information about the identity of the gunmen and no claim of responsibility for the attack.
It was the fourth attack on Frenchmen in East Beirut since September, 1986, when the embassy moved to a suburb of East Beirut because of a wave of kidnapings and assassinations of foreigners in Muslim West Beirut. Four Frenchmen are believed still held hostage.
Engineer, 3 Guards
On Nov. 11, gunmen shot engineer Richard Gimpel, 46, of Lens, France, as he drove his car in East Beirut. He died 13 days later.
On Oct. 29, two gunmen in a car sprayed three French Embassy guards with automatic gunfire as they shopped for fruit and antiques in East Beirut. Lt. Christian Mondon and Warrant Officer Andre Cruz were killed and Pvt. Miguel Collignon was seriously wounded.
In September, 1986, the military attache at the French Embassy, Col. Christian Gouttierre, 60, was fatally shot near the French Embassy compound in the Christian suburb of Hazmiye.