FBI’s role in assassination probe strictly technical, report


Lebanon Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi told OTV on Friday that that the FBI team is in Lebanon to assist the Lebanese security forces in their investigation the assassination of Internal Security Forces intelligence chief Wissam al-Hassan and their “role will be strictly technical ”

“If the FBI team does not stick to its designated mission, then the minister will take a stance regarding the issue,” Qortbawi said.

An FBI team arrived in Beirut on Thursday and began gathering evidence at the scene of a bombing that killed Hassan and seven others and wounded 126 .

Qortbawi represents in the cabinet MP Michel Aoun, a close ally of Hezbollah and Syria.

Similarly Prosecutor General Judge Hatem Madi stressed on Friday that he limited the role of the FBI investigation team to providing the Lebanese security agencies with technical assistance only in the probe into the assassination of intelligence chief.

“The FBI team will not interfere in the investigations,” Madi said in comments published in al-Joumhouria newspaper.

Madi told the newspaper that the Lebanese investigation team will “report to him personally” and he will therefore assign their tasks.

He pointed out that other countries might offer the same type of “aid” to the Lebanese authorities. France , according to As Safir newspaper will send an investigation team to Lebanon.

Syria has emerged as the prime suspect in Hassan’s assassination.

“Damascus detested him above all for catching red-handed with explosives Lebanon’s former information minister Michel Samaha, the most pro-Syrian of Syria’s allies,” Ghassan al-Azzi, a politics professor at Beirut’s Lebanese University said last weekend.

Hassan arrested Samaha at his home in August and police found explosives which investigators alleged were to be used in a series of attacks in northern Lebanon to spark unrest in the country.

But Lebanese forces leader told Saudi daily Al-Watan in remarks published last Thursday that Hassan was assassinated by the Shiite group Hezbollah under orders from its Syrian and Iranian backers.

Like the case of the assassination of former PM Rafik Hariri in 2005 , this issue is very sensitive because Hezbollah which dominates the government is opposed to any foreign assistance in the investigation. Hezbollah’s deputy leader Sheik Naim Kassam said in a statement released by the group last week. “This is a Lebanese affair and under the authority of Lebanese laws.” He rejected all attempts to give this case an international dimension.

The U.N.-backed court , Special Tribunal for Lebanon ,(STL) indicted four Hezbollah members in the killing of Hariri, but Hezbollah, denied any involvement.