FBI dispatched to Lebanon to aid bombing investigation

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been dispatched to Lebanon to help investigate last Friday’s deadly car bombing that killed 8 people, including a top security official, and injured dozens in Beirut.

The bombing appeared to have targeted Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan, the head of Lebanon’s Interior Security Forces. Hassan, who led the investigation that linked Damascus to the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, had supported the Syrian opposition seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

“The FBI will provide technical assistance to the investigation into the attack that killed Brigadier General Al-Hassan and 7 others. The decision to dispatch the FBI team was taken following discussions between the Government of Lebanon and the U.S. Government,” a U.S. State Department official confirmed.

Read more: Lebanese officials blame Syria for Beirut car bombing

The FBI also provided technical assistance to the investigation into Hariri’s killing, which forced Assad to end Syria’s decades-long occupation of Lebanon.

Lebanese officials – including Hariri’s son, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri – have blamed the Beirut bombing on Assad’s regime. If their accusations are true, then it’s another disturbing sign that Syria’s conflict is spilling over – and destabilizing – neighboring countries in the Middle East.

Conflict in Syria spilling over

The conflict in Syria have forced tens of thousands of refugees to flee to Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq to escape the violence. Tensions between Syria and its neighbors have also escalated. Syria and Turkey have exchanged rocket fires along their borders.This week Jordanian authorities foiled a sophisticated plot by terrorists to use weapons obtained in Syria to attack civilian and Western targets, including the U.S. Embassy in Amman. A Jordanian soldier was also killed by militants trying to cross the border with Syria.

“We’re certainly concerned. We’ve been clear for some time about the possibility of a possible spillover effect from the conflict in Syria,” said State Department spokesman Mark Toner. “We’ve also had long-term concerns, as you well know, about Assad’s disregard – flagrant disregard – for Lebanon’s sovereignty and relevant UN Security Council resolutions…But in terms of this investigation, let’s let it run its course.”

Lebanon remains divided over Syria, its former occupier. 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.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati – whose government is backed by the Shia militant group Hezbollah with 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 power vacuum for the time being.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to Mikati over the phone on Sunday, stressing the United State’s support of Lebanon’s sovereignty (or ability to govern its domestic affairs without foreign interference) and the importance that Lebanese officials work together after the bombing to avoid violence and destabilization.

“It’s a very sensitive time. We want to see the investigation move forward, but we also want to see, as I said, political leaders show dialogue and also to show restraint,” Toner said.

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