Explosion In Beirut Kills Former Finance Minister Mohammed Chatah
Lebanese Red Cross personnel cover a body near a destroyed car believed to be the vehicle in which former finance minister Mohammed Chatah was travelling in, after an explosion in Beirut's downtown area on Dec. 27, 2013. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi

A car bomb exploded early Friday in central Beirut killing five people, including a senior aide to former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and a former ambassador to the U.S., Lebanon's state news agency said.

Mohammed Chatah, a senior adviser to Hariri, and his driver were killed in a powerful explosion near an upmarket hotel in central Beirut. Three others were also killed and at least 15 others were injured in the powerful blast, local media reports said.

Television footage showed several dead bodies scattered over the area and many cars in the area in flames. The blast also damaged nearby buildings, including a restaurant and a coffee shop.

A witness at the scene told Reuters that Chatah’s car was "totally destroyed. It is a wreck." Police have blocked off roads across the city following the explosion, and ambulances were seen taking victims from the area, according to the witness, who added that there was glass everywhere and the smell of explosives filled the air.

Chatah served as a finance minister in Hariri’s government and was critical of the Syrian regime and Hezbollah.