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French Version


Brammertz confirms truck bomb killed Hariri but refrains from pointing fingers

Probe also cites 'link' between series of blasts, assassination bids in 2005

New tests corroborate the theory that former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri was killed by a massive truck bomb detonated by a suicide bomber, a United Nations investigating team said in a report released Monday.

Evidence found at the scene of the blast also included a tooth, probably of the bomber, which featured an unspecified "distinguishing mark" on its crown suggesting he may not have been from Lebanon, the report said.

The document, the third from a team led by Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz, reported progress in the probe of the February 14, 2005, explosion that killed Hariri and 22 others in Beirut. His supporters blame Syria, which has denied any role.

Brammertz handed his second and final report (the first was prepared by his predecessor, Detlev Mehlis) on Monday to UN chief General Kofi Annan, who met later in the day with Syria's foreign minister. Copies were also given to the members of the Security Council.

Brammertz is scheduled to brief the Security Council on Friday, after which it will hold closed consultations.

According to the report, Syria has been generally cooperative with the probe, though the team did raise questions about information provided by Syrian officials in several interviews. It said investigators found it necessary to corroborate the answers given by those interview subjects, whose cooperation was "variable."

Investigators had suspected for some time that Hariri was killed by a bomb packed into a Mitsubishi truck whose remnants were found at the scene.

According to the report, new tests corroborate the theory that a man either inside or just in front of the van detonated the bomb, which was probably close to 1,800 kilograms. Investigators have found 32 pieces of remains from the person believed to be the attacker, who was likely 20-25 years old, the report said.

Brammertz said evidence suggested that the team planning Hariri's assassination had him under surveillance.

At one point, he said, the attackers either tried to kill Hariri or carried out a rehearsal.

As with his previous reports, Brammertz' latest was largely technical and absent of sweeping theories or speculation. That contrasts with Mehlis, whose updates read like detective novels and revealed tantalizing bits of evidence.

New leads and phone calls traced through 17 countries were other highlights of the report. Brammertz cited "a considerable number of new leads for the investigation relating to the crime scene, its vicinity and the immediate perpetration of the crime."

He also pointed to a "link" between 14 explosions, assassinations and attempted assassinations that occurred in Lebanon throughout 2005. Investigators' work "in relation to the 14 other cases ... is beginning to produce links, notably in identifying potential conjoining motives," the report said.

Though no suspects were named in the report, Brammertz said the probe "has developed direct and indirect linkages between significant individuals in disparate groups that are relevant from an investigative perspective."

As for who ordered the killing, the report said investigators continue to probe "both the possibility that a single group, with a singular intent and capacity committed the crime; or that a well-defined or disparate collection of individuals or groups joined together with differing motives and intentions to commit the same crime."

As for Ahmed Abu Adass, who appeared in a video claiming responsibility for the killing and has not been located since, Brammertz said the team "continues its examination of Abu Adass' involvement in the crime, including the validity of the claim of responsibility."

However, Brammertz said that Abu Adass' "profile is distinct ... he seemingly had more academic and intellectual interests and less technical orientation that that associated with those members of terrorist groups engaged in the operational aspects of terrorist activities, at least in Lebanon."

The motives behind the crime "are apparently of varying levels of international, regional and national relevance, and relate to political, economic, financial and business matters."

A UN diplomatic source in New York told The Daily Star on Monday that Brammertz's report was "procedural, like the one he presented earlier this year."

Rumors had been circulating recently in Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries that Brammertz would name names in his report.

Saudi daily Okaz said Monday that Brammertz would reveal Syria's direct involvement in Hariri's assassination.

The newspaper added that Brammertz's report would disclose details about "a tape" that former Syrian Interior Minister Ghazi Kenaan allegedly "recorded about the planning of the February 14, 2005, murder."

"Senior Syrian officers and former Lebanese Environment Minister Wiam Wahhab planned the assassination," it claimed.

The article alleged that Kenaan "cut a deal with Mehlis to escape to Cyprus via the North Lebanese port city of Tripoli," but that a person close to Kenaan reported him to the Syrian authorities, which later "announced his suicide."

Okaz said the report "will also reveal the names of those involved in the murder, including Syrian President Bashar Assad's brother in law, General Assef Shawkat and Brigadier Bahjat Suleiman, the former head of the Security Department."

In addition, the newspaper claimed that the name of "an Iraqi, who detonated the white Mitsubishi truck that was seen at the site of the one-ton bomb explosion on Beirut's seafront, will be made public."

Beirut 26-09-2006
Redaction
The Daily Star



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