BEIRUT: Last week’s bombing in Beirut was carried out by a group of professionals with one suspect having evaded being caught on cameras at the site of the crime where at least eight people, including a former minister, were killed, a judicial source said Monday.
The source said investigators reviewing footage from the crime scene – a bustling, commercial street of the capital’s central district – have yet to identity the suspect who parked the explosive-rigged car used in the attack that targeted former Minister Mohammad Shatah.
Although investigators still have more footage to analyze, the source said at present investigators believe the suspect, and those behind Shatah’s assassination, had thorough knowledge of the location and surveillance patterns of cameras in the area which allowed him to evade being detected.
The suspect’s ability to avoid being captured on surveillance cameras suggests those behind the Dec. 27 attack are professionals, the source added.
The Internal Security Forces sought the public’s help in the investigation, urging citizens with photos or videos of the incident to send them to email@example.com.
The recent findings in the investigation were discussed Monday during a meeting chaired by acting State Prosecutor Samir Hammoud that included Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr as well as officials from Army Intelligence, Military Police and Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch.
Hammoud also viewed reports submitted by explosive experts.
On the Honda CRV that was detonated, the source said investigators were certain the vehicle rigged with some 60 kilograms of explosives was last seen prior to the explosion at the Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp near the southern city of Sidon.
The car was stolen in Mount Lebanon from a woman in 2012 and moved to the camp, a security source told The Daily Star.
The judicial source said the car was sold inside the camp on two occasions but investigators have yet to identify the vehicle’s last owner.
On Sunday, Fatah handed over Talal al-Urdouni, a resident of the camp, to Army Intelligence for questioning over his purchase and selling of the vehicle.
The Army has boosted security measures at the entrance of Ain el-Hilweh since Friday's deadly attack with the aim of monitoring all vehicles entering and exiting the camp.
Meanwhile, Haytham al-Shaabi, the head of Jund al-Sham, denied in a statement circulated on social media sites he had a role in the bombing, saying the media was trying to tarnish the camp's reputation.
The Army’s increased measures angered the camp’s residents with some setting tires on fire in protest.
Commander of Palestinian National Security, Sobhi Abu Arab, contacted the chief of Army Intelligence in the south, Brig. Gen. Ali Shahrour, urging him to ease the security measures.
Abu Arab told The Daily Star Shahrour promised him that the military would reduce the measures taken in order to facilitate traffic in and out of the camp
Shahrour and Abu Arab later held a meeting to discuss the security situation in the camp.
Shahrour also met with the Follow-up Committee of Palestinian forces. The Army official reassured the camp’s residents that the measures were only precautionary and aimed at protecting the stability and security of Ain el-Hilweh and Lebanon.
He also stressed on the importance of cooperation between Palestinian factions and military and security agencies in the country.
According to a source who attended the meeting, Shahrour also brought up a previous request by the Army to question three suspects residing in the camp and who are allegedly involved in the Iranian Embassy bombing as well as a rocket attack on Beirut's southern suburbs.
The third suspect is involved in several security incidents.