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This killing field: Any resurgence of terrorist activities in Lebanon?

There is no doubt that Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Nigeria are the current dominant killing fields of car bombing mass assassination…There are other region that media have no direct access or fake not to know much of what’s going around there, like north Mali, Mauritania, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia…

It is the way Lebanon was from 1975 to 1989 and after the withdrawal of the Syrian troops in 2005… Is Lebanon being re-immersed in the same kinds of killing fields?

Andrew Bossone published in the Ahram weekly underLebanese killing fields”

“Lebanon could be closing a dark chapter of assassinations, or the latest victim could be the start of a protracted conflict…

Click to view caption
Lebanese mourners light candles during a vigil for Wissam
Al-Hassan and at least five others who were killed in a Friday bomb attack in Beirut

Since a car bomb in East Beirut killed a top state investigator, Wissam Al-Hassan, and at least five other people, gangs took control of streets and highways across the country. The police and army did little to stop young, armed men taking over for days.

“There’s a group of militant men who are speeding up the process of sectarian war between Sunni and Shia,” said journalist Moe Ali Nayel, who witnessed unaffiliated groups of men armed with Kalashnikovs roaming the streets of the Tarik Al-Jadida area on Monday after Al-Hassan’s death.

“Who were these guys shooting at?” Nayel asked. “There was no other side of the confrontation. It was just one angry mob shooting in the direction of Shia areas.”

The day after the explosion, roads shut down with teenagers burning tires and trash dumpsters. Highways and streets emptied as streams of thick black smoke billowed along the coast. Even military personnel had to ask the teenagers controlling a roadblock going south to let them pass.

It was only after Al-Hassan’s funeral, when some of the attendees tried to storm the parliament building, that government security forces finally interfered against mob rule on the streets. Gunshots rang throughout the night of the funeral, however, and continued the next afternoon.

“Militants were in the street, they were visible,” Nayel said. “This hinted to me that this conflict could drag on, and the side that is provoking at the moment is willing to take it to the end.”

Most Lebanese stayed inside for days, glued to national channels playing non-stop coverage of the events, afraid that violence could spread at any moment. They remain haunted by the civil war and by the death of prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri, which lead to Syria’s withdrawal from the country, and also the seven assassinations of Al-Hariri’s allies before Al-Hassan.

Investigators have days of surveillance tapes of the scene to trawl. They also found parts of the car fitted with two bombs, hoping to identify the killer, though the vehicle was likely stolen: Lebanon also has tens of thousands of fake license plates, so tracing the owner of the car could be impossible. If the assassination had been someone other than himself, Al-Hassan would have been the lead detective on the scene.

Ashraf Rifi, Al-Hassan’s former boss as general director of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces, said that 100 people like Wissam Al-Hassan will fill his shoes, but everyone knows Al-Hassan is practically irreplaceable. He was expected to take Rifi’s post and there was some speculation that he could have been on the verge of uncovering another plot.

Hassan security should have been stricter. On the day he was killed, he drove down a small street in Ashrafieh with only one guard.

As the top investigator in the Internal Security Forces Information Branch created in the wake of the killing of Rafic Al-Hariri PM, Al-Hassan worked out of the spotlight but may have also made his share of enemies.

In addition to charging Hizbollah members with Al-Hariri’s death as the lead investigator on the International Tribunal for Lebanon, Al-Hassan has been credited with uncovering at least one Mossad network.

But for some, Al-Hassan’s recent discovery of a bomb plot by Michel Samaha ordered from Damascus is enough to know the killer. Even President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati — who are not aligned with 14 March — said it was hard not to see the connection between the death of Al-Hassan and the capture of former minister and deputy Michel Samaha.

“This [security] institution is being punished with the assassination of its leader, Major General Wissam Al-Hassan, because the Information Branch has achieved so much, including uncovering bomb plots where they confiscated explosives and arrested the transporter,” said Suleiman, quoted in The Daily Star newspaper, referring to the Samaha case.

All this is happening as Syria’s capital is in the throes of war with roadblocks spread across it. The Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was bombed the day before Al-Hassan’s death, while dozens died in the Damascus countryside over the following days.

One can’t help but feel that the uprising in Syria has finally reached Lebanon. In the last two months the number of Syrian refugees more than doubled to nearly 100,000. They need help for the winter and life has become unsafe after two attacks on Syrian workers at construction sites.

History and conflict have bound the two countries together and both are divided internally. It’s now up to the Lebanese to determine if Al-Hassan’s death ends a string of assassinations and divisive politics or brings back the sectarian specter of civil war.




March 2023

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