Very interesting two reports Hariri's killers 'recruited from Syrian-linked group in Iraq
By Damien McElroy in Beirut -Telegraph, February 20, 2005
Assassins who killed Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister,
travelled from Iraq through Syria to carry out the attack according to the
Beirut judge leading the inquiry into the bombing. Rachid Mezher, the
senior investigator for the Lebanese military tribunal, said that the
organisers had been recruited from Islamist groups linked to Syria and
operating against the US-led coalition in Iraq.
Although no firm ties with the Syrian regime have been
established, his comments suggest strong circumstantial evidence of a
connection Investigators believe that a suicide bomber drove a car laden
with explosives into the 60-year-old billionaire's convoy last Monday,
killing him and 14 others. Judge Mezher said that a video in which a
fanatic called Ahmed Abu Adas said the attack was the ork of "Victory and
Jihad in Greater Syria", an unknown group, was a genuine claim of
responsibility. Abu Adas, 23, a Palestinian Lebanese believed to have fled
the country, attended two Beirut mosques known to be recruiting grounds
for the Ansar al-Islam group, linked to the Jordanian extremist Abu Musab
al-Zarqawi. Investigators suspect that the mosques have ties to Sheikh
Abderrazak, a Damascus cleric who has helped fighters travel through Syria
to Iraq. The Beirut attack bore similarities to suicide bombings carried
out in Iraq by al-Zarqawi, who has increasingly strong ties to al-Qaeda. "We
know that Adas had Saudi Arabian nationality and used his passport to
travel to Iraq and Syria," said Judge Mezher in his only interview with a
"The man converted to strict Muslim beliefs two years ago and
returned to Lebanon only recently." The regime of the Syrian president,
Bashar Assad, denies involvement in the attack and has rebuffed calls from
Lebanon and America to remove its 15,000 troops from the country. It has a
history, however, of using extremists in Lebanon as proxy killers. However,
a Syrian intelligence official based in Lebanon said:
"There was a gap in security exploited by the terrorists and
their web must be investigated. This criminal act was an attack on Syria
as much as it was on Lebanon." Mr Hariri, prime minister for 10 years,
resigned last year after Syrian pressure led to the extension of the term
as Lebanese president of Emile Lahoud, his chief rival. Previously
pro-Syrian, Mr Hariri had planned to campaign during May's general
election against Syrian influence.
Walid Jumblatt, now the leading Lebanese opposition leader, has
accused Damascus of commissioning the attack on Mr Hariri. He is now at
the vanguard of a popular movement to force the Syrian troops out of
Lebanon. "He got killed and we are all on that list, there is no immunity,"
he said. "Syria is responsible. Who else? We don't want to open war with
Syria, but they must go out."
The Syrian president is a member of the Alawite religious sect, feared
throughout medieval Europe as the Assassins. When its leader wanted an
opponent killed, he handed a follower a dagger and his wishes were carried
out. Many Lebanese believe that Mr Hariri's death was commissioned in
similar fashion by Syria's Mukhabarat intelligence service. At the Zoqaq
al-Blat mosque, a stronghold of the pro-Syrian Akbash sect, the imam
blamed foreign powers - meaning America and Israel for Mr Hariri's death.
"This intervention is designed to disfigure
Lebanon and is the work of foreign forces who mean us harm," he
said. American support for Lebanese opposition demands is growing. One
administration figure said of the assassination: "If Syria did authorise
this, it's the stupidest thing they could have done."
Lebanon Is on the Brink. Syria Begins Arming its Supporters
DEBKAfile Special Report
February 19, 2005, 11:24 PM (GMT+02:00)
Druse leader Walid Jumblatt takes opposition reins from late Hariri
Lebanon's climate has been charged with latent violence since the
assassination Monday, February 14, of Lebanese former prime minister Rafiq
Hariri, and his funeral two days later. Sparks began flying when the
opposition unveiled their "peaceful democratic uprising for independence"
Friday, February 18, and, as revealed by DEBKAfile's intelligence sources,
Syrian forces began distributing weapons to groups supporting Damascus and
the 1.4 million expatriate laborers in the country. The resignations of
president Emil Lahoude and the Karame government were forcefully demanded
by the opposition leader, Walid Jumblatt, head of the Lebanese Druses who
speaks for a rare multiethnic coalition made up of his own community,
Christian factions endorsed by Maronite Catholic Archbishop Nasrallah
Sfeir, and Sunni Muslims led by the dead billionaire's oldest son, Bahaa
Hariri, with the blessing of the Sunni Muslim Mufti of Lebanon. Saturday,
February 19, Omar Karame, who succeeded Rafiq Hariri as prime minister,
accused this group of attempting a coup d'etat.
The belligerent Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned (or threatened)
that "popular agitation against Syria's grip on the country following the
killing of Rafiq Hariri could plunge Lebanon into civil war again. Backed
solidly from Damascus and Tehran, he exhorted the100,000 Shiites massed in
Beirut to mark the Ashura festival not to forget the real enemy. "Death to
Israel!" they roared after him. All three uprisings launched in the Middle
East in five years were steeped in violence. In 1991, after the first Gulf
War, Iraq's Shiites rose up against the Saddam regime. Thousands were
savagely mowed down by his tanks. Syria's Kurdish community challenged
Assad in 2003, only to lose thousands of dead and many more thrown into
Syria's prisons. The Palestinian confrontation with Israel has left 5,000
Palestinian and 1,300 Israelis dead since 2000.
The sparks will fly in earnest when government and Syrians move
into aggressive mode to crush the opposition, which will become
increasingly inflamed by multiplying leads to Syria and its Lebanese
minions as Hariri's assassins. Our sources report that US, French and
Israeli intelligence have already gathered solid evidence that General
Rostum Ghazallah of Syrian military intelligence orchestrated the murder
on orders from Damascus with the aid of Lebanese general intelligence and
its chief General Jamil al-Sayad.
The Damascus-backed government in Beirut and its masters has no
intention of going quietly. Bashar Assad desperately needs the political
and economic benefits he extorts from Lebanon to prop up his regime.
Monday, February 21, presidents George W. Bush and Jacques Chirac meet in
Paris. With Lebanon at the forefront of their agenda, they will have to
look hard at some tough questions. How to handle the situation if Assad
orders his Syrian troops in Lebanon to march on Beirut in defense of his
puppet government? And worse still, what if the full weight of the Syrian
army is sent across the border to squash the uprising? Will the two
Western leaders dispatch a joint US- French force to repulse the Syrian
onslaught? If they did, it would be the most drastic event to hit the
Middle East since the March 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.
The second American invasion of an Arab land might this time be
partnered or endorsed by a European power. To force the hands of the
American and French presidents, the leaders of the Lebanese uprising are
preparing a spectacular event to coincide with their summit. One proposal
is for a hundreds of thousands of protesters to march through Beirut's
streets and seize the parliament building. Other "intifada" events in the
1. Giant rallies to strangle normal life in the capital.
2. A human chain from Hariri's tomb to government headquarters on the
seam-line dividing the Hizballah-dominated southern district from the
Christian-controlled West that would aim to paralyze governmentactivity
Opposition leaders have notified Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, headof
the Shiite Amal, that the only session they will allow to be held is an
open debate on the murder of the former prime minister thatproduces the
formation of a state inquiry commission.
3. This commission's mandatory guideline must be to call General
Rostum Ghazallah as its first witness.
4. The mobilization of Lebanese expatriate communities in the
UnitedStates and Europe for synchronized street rallies to generate broad
international popular sympathy on the same lines as Ukraine's
5. Armenian Christians in Lebanon and Western countries will be asked
to join the struggle. The campaign waged by this anti-Syrian
coalition faces three major challenges: First, to keep a tight rein on the
uprising so that it does not runout of control and degenerate into a
bloodbath and all-out civil
strife. Second, to divide the hitherto pro-Syrian Shiite community against
itself. If parliament speaker Berri can be won over to the opposition side
against the government, the Shiites will be split
between Amal and Hizballah. This will sunder the entire pro-Syrian front
and seriously shake the government.
DEBKAfile's Lebanese sources report that most Karame cabinet ministers
have departed Beirut to avoid the sound and fury following the
assassination; the tourism minister has resigned. President
Lahoud has not so far uttered a word on the crisis, no doubt waiting for
his script to be written in Damascus.
Third, The opposition must prove it can get the masses out on the
streets for long, sustained rallies. Its failure to muster sizeable
popular backing would foredoom the intifada to failure. If the struggle
peters out, Syria will tighten its grip on Lebanon and go
from strength to strength, with adverse effect on America's strategic
position in the region and a setback for Israel too.
With the old Levant under their jackboots, the Syrians will quickly expand
their role as main crossroads for international terrorists
moving back and forth among their targeted arenas - whether into Iraqor
over to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.