Bachir Gemayel was a Lebanese leader and president-elect. He was a senior member of the Phalange party and the supreme commander of the Lebanese Forces militia during the early years of the Lebanese War.
President-elect Bashir Gemayel was killed Tuesday when a bomb shattered the headquarters of his Lebanese Christian Phalangist Party in east Beirut. The Government said he would be buried today.
Mr. Gemayel, 34 years old, who was to have been inaugurated Sept. 23, was said to have died as he was about to address 400 of his followers at a weekly meeting. The state radio said the blast left at least 8 dead, among them other Phalangist leaders, and more than 50 wounded.
Prime Minister Shafik al-Wazzan deplored the killing in a statement, describing it as ”a link in a chain of criminal conspiracies against Lebanon at a time when it started to restore its strength.” New Fighting Is Feared
No one took responsibility immediately for the bombing. It raised widespread fears that it would be followed by new fighting between Lebanon’s Christian and Moslem militias.
Mr. Gemayel, who had been the commander of the Christian militias, was elected President Aug. 23 at a special session of Parliament that was boycotted by many Moslem legislators. To them, many other Moslems and some Christian groups, he was an enemy and an agent of Israel, whose invading troops made his election possible. (In Israel, there was no immediate official comment on the assassination.)
Until Sept. 23, the current President, Elias Sarkis, will continue as chief of state. Government sources said he could call new elections before then or appoint a presidential council to exercise presidential power until new elections could be called. Since the President in Lebanon is by tradition a Maronite Catholic, the council would also be headed by one. 400 Pounds of Explosives
The sources said another possibility was an extension of the Sarkis term, but this would require a change in the Constitution. The Lebanese President is not allowed under current law to succeed himself.
The blast, involving the detonation of what Phalangist and Government sources estimated to be more than 400 pounds of high explosives, occurred at 4:10 P.M. Tuesday. There was no immediate explanation for how so large an amount of explosive could have been introduced into the building.
For several hours reports circulated that Mr. Gemayel had survived. There were reports that he had said ”God be praised” as he left the scene for treatment of leg bruises at the nearby French-run Hotel Dieu hospital. Those accounts were broadcast by the Phalangist radio, which quoted witnesses as saying they had seen the Presidentelect walk away from the scene of the blast, in the Ashrafiye section of the predominantly Christian eastern part of Beirut.
Some accounts said he was buried for a time in the rubble of a large section of the party headquarters that was leveled by the blast.
Church bells were rung in celebration of his reported survival, and Phalangist militiamen loosed joyful volleys of gunfire. ”Long live Sheik Bashir,” said the Voice of Lebanon radio at 6:15 P.M. ”Today is the resurrection of Lebanon. Lebanon rose out of the three stories that were destroyed today by the hand of treason and crime.”
But then the Phalangist radios went off the air, and reports began circulating that Mr. Gemayel had been fatally wounded. The Body Is Found
Eventually, Phalangist and Government sources reported that Mr. Gemayel’s body was found in the rubble six hours or more after the blast. There was no immediate announcement on the state radio, but soon after 11 P.M. the station began to broadcast programs of solemn music.
Early today, Prime Minister Wazzan confirmed that Mr. Gemayel had been killed. ”With great pain,” he said in his statement, ”I face this shocking news with the strongest denunciation for this criminal act.”
Attempts to kill Mr. Gemayel had been made twice before, both with car bombs. The first attempt, on March 20, 1979, was blocked when the bomb was defused. On Feb. 23, 1980, a bomb exploded as his automobile passed it. His 18-month-old daughter, Maya, who was in the car, was killed; Mr. Gemayel was not in the car.