In a city largely numbed by the unending cycle of violent death, last Saturday's car bombing produced a ripple of shocked disbelief. At 11:45 a.m., a car, believed to be a white Mercedes, exploded outside a supermarket crowded with women and children in predominantly Christian East Beirut. The blast killed as many as 50 people and injured nearly 100 others, several of whom were trapped in an underground storage room. The blast touched off a raging fire in the six-story apartment building housing the supermarket, and a pillar of black smoke towered above the area. Explosives experts believe that the car had been packed with about 550 lbs. of dynamite that was detonated by remote control.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing. But it was the culmination of an especially bloody week in the city. On Wednesday, another car bomb had exploded in East Beirut, killing 15 people, many of them children, and shattering a six-story apartment building. Scores of civilians also fell victim to artillery and mortar exchanges between rival Christian and Muslim forces.WEST GERMANY Fatal Identity
Specialist Four Edward F. Pimental, 20, left his barracks at Camp Pieri in Wiesbaden on the evening of Aug. 7 for a few hours of fun at the Western Saloon, a favorite haunt of U.S. soldiers at the base. He had a drink with a dark-haired woman dressed in blue jeans, who appeared to be with a tall mustachioed man she called Jeff. Pimental left with the couple. Next morning he was found dead, shot in the back of the neck with a large-caliber gun. Minutes after his body was found, a terrorist car bomb exploded inside the U.S. Rhein-Main Air Base some 20 miles away, killing two people, both Americans, and injuring 21.
At first police theorized that Jeff could have been Pimental's killer. But last week the Frankfurt office of the Reuters news agency received a copy of a letter from the Red Army Faction, a West German terrorist group, and the French extremist organization Direct Action claiming responsibility for the air-base bombing. More startling, the envelope contained Pimental's green military identification card. The West German authorities now think they may have an explanation for how the terrorists managed to drive their bomb-laden car past the guards at the air base: they might simply have flashed Pimental's ID card.FRANCE A Working Vacation
Suntanned but in a stormy mood, 490 Deputies of the French National Assembly last week left their vacation villas and returned to Paris at the bidding of Socialist President Francois Mitterrand. The summons came two days after France's legislative review panel rejected as unconstitutional part of a plan to organize regional elections in New Caledonia, a major step toward making the country's Pacific territory independent. The review panel said that the bill, which would have maintained New Caledonia's defense and economic links with France while dividing the island into four voting regions, favored native Kanaks at the expense of French settlers, known as caldoches.