Beirut – A rumour of a new explosion circulated Saturday in the Lebanese capital and kept Lebanese in their homes over the weekend. The source of the rumour was an e-mail that read, ‘Attention Michel Hayek (a famous Lebanese psychic) predicted that an explosion will hit one of Beirut’s shopping malls where dozen of children and women will be killed.’ The mail called on every Lebanese to pay attention and to pass on the message.

‘I was planning to take my children to a Christmas party at a shopping mall, but I stayed home instead,’ said Randa Attaya, a mother of two girls. Hayek became famous in Lebanon after he appeared last year on a Lebanese television show on New Year’s Eve, offering more than 20 predictions. Hayek predicted that unfortunate events would threaten the lives of five Lebanese politicians, including a minister and Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, and Leading journalist Jubran Tueini. ‘Most of his predictions were true,’ Reem Salam said. Hayek usually refrains from naming people but during his predictions last new years eve, he named Tueini and Lahoud.

‘Up ’til now the president is still surviving. … Tueini was killed on Monday, (former) premier Rafik Hariri along with economic minister Bassel Fleihan were killed last February,’ said Michlene Khoury.

Hayek said that he usually feels a hunch for something, and then concentrates and the vision becomes clear.

But Hayek, according to the Lebanese media, has not predicted anything new since he appeared on a Lebanese television on New Year’s Eve.

‘Fear is haunting the Lebanese because of the series of bombings. This is normal in countries where people feel there is no security,’ said psychiatrist Randa Androus. ‘People tend to believe anything when they are in this state.’

Tueini and three other people were killed in a massive car bombing on Monday. Since Hariri was assassinated in February, the country has been hit by a series of bomb attacks, mainly targeting anti-Syrian opposition journalists or politicians. The bombs also targeted Christian-neighbourhood shopping centres in March.

Syria and its Lebanese allies have been blamed for the attacks, including the Hariri assassination. Damascus has vehemently denied all the charges.

In the last four days, rumours intensified after a new ‘hitlist’ targeting anti-Syrian opposition leaders was released and published in all the Lebanese media.

The list included the names of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, his close ally Minister Marwan Hamadeh and other Christian deputies who are outspoken critics of Syria.

‘Usually on a weekend, my restaurant is full. Tonight there is barely three tables occupied in the whole place,’ said Dima Husseini, a restaurant owner.

A shop owner at one of the biggest malls in Beirut said, ‘Usually one week before Christmas we do not close before 12. Tonight I am going home two hours earlier because nobody came to shop out of fear from the rumour.’

© 2005 dpa – Deutsche Presse-Agentur