Lebanese officials blame Syria for Beirut car bombing
The former Prime Minister of Lebanon has accused Syria of being involved in Friday’s car bombing that killed Lebanon’s top security chief in Beirut.
The bombing took place in the predominately Christian neighborhood of Achrafiyeh. The powerful explosion killed three people – including Brigadier Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, the head of Lebanon’s Interior Security Forces – and reportedly wounded at least 80 others.
Saad Hariri, who served as Lebanon’s prime minister from 2009 to 2011, and several politicians from the anti-Syrian March 14 alliance have publicly blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the assassination of Hassan, a well-known supporter of the Syrian opposition seeking to oust Assad.
“Obviously, the regime in Syria will not stop at anything but to achieve his [continued political rule],” said Saad Hariri, whose father, former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, was killed in a similar car bombing in 2005. “The message from Damascus today is…’Anywhere you are, if you are against this regime in Lebanon, we will come and get you.”
Prime Minister Najib Mikati – whose government is backed by the Shia militant group Hezbollah and has close ties with the Assad regime – has offered to resign over the bombing. However, President Michel Sleiman has refused to accept Mikati’s resignation to avoid a destabilizing power vacuum for the time being.
According to Hariri, Assad’s regime has compelling reasons to silence Hassan.
Prior to his death, Hassan investigated the elder Hariri’s assassination and uncovered evidence that linked the Syrian government to the 2005 bombing. The resulting public outcry and international pressure forced Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon that summer, ending its 29-year military occupation.
In August of this year, Hassan ordered the arrest of former Lebanese minister Michel Samaha, who reportedly confessed to plotting to bomb Sunni targets in northern Lebanon under the direction of the Syrian government.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, Lebanese investigators obtained a video allegedly showing Samaha recruiting someone to carry out the bombings and saying “this is what Bashar wants” in an apparent reference to the Syrian President. In the video, Samaha also allegedly revealed that he was given explosive materials by General Ali Mamlouk, the head of Syria’s General Security Directorate and a top security advisor to Assad.
In an interview with CNN, Hariri suggested that Friday’s car bombing was carried out by pro-Assad operatives in retaliation for Samaha’s arrest.
“Unfortunately today, Wissam Hassan paid the price of his success just a month and a half ago,” said Hariri. “[Assad's] regime is killing his own people; so let alone killing Lebanese, he would not even think twice.”
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and the Security Council have condemned the bombing.
The Security Council issued a statement underlining “the need to bring the perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of this crime to justice” and urged all states to “cooperate actively with the Lebanese authorities in this regard.”
“The members of the Security Council reiterated their unequivocal condemnation of any attempt to destabilize Lebanon through political assassinations and demanded an immediate end to the use of intimidation and violence against political figures. They appealed to all Lebanese people to preserve national unity in the face of such attempts to undermine the country’s stability,” according to the statement.
Lebanon, still recovering from years of civil war, remains divided over Syria, one of its former occupiers. The Shia Muslims – led by Hezbollah – support the Shia Assad regime whereas the Sunni Muslims oppose Assad’s rule and Syria’s interference in Lebanon.
“The assassination of Brigadier General Chief Wissam al-Hassan, who was a strong defender of Lebanon’s security and its people, is a dangerous sign that there are those who continue to seek to undermine Lebanon’s security,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “We call on all parties to exercise restraint and respect for Lebanon’s stability and security.”
- Facebook.com: Saad Hariri’s note on the Beirut car bombing
- March14.org: Geagea refuses to give up the struggle, accuses Syria of blast
- United Nations: New York, 19 October 2012 – Statement Attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the Explosion in Beirut, Lebanon
- United Nations: Security Council statement on Lebanon
- United Nations: Reports by the UN International Independent Investigation Commission on Lebanon
- CNN.com: Saad Hariri speaks to CNN about Beirut car bombing
- BBC.com: Anger erupts as Lebanon mourns Beirut bomb victims
- Christian Science Monitor: Former Lebanese minister arrested for planning attacks for Syria’s Assad
- Reuters.com: Lebanon’s former PM Hariri blames Assad for Beirut bomb
- Reuters.com: Lebanese PM suspects assassination linked to bomb plot