BEIRUT: ISF Information Branch chief Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, one of Lebanon’s most important security figures, was assassinated in a car bomb blast Friday that ripped through the crowded neighborhood of Ashrafieh.
Hasan, 47, was known for his pivotal role in major security investigations Lebanon, including the probe into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the recent terrorism charges brought against former Information Minister Michel Samaha.
Appointed head of the ISF Information Branch in 2006, Hasan was instrumental in building the department and spearheaded its major cases, which also included a massive operation to dismantle Israel’s spy networks in Lebanon.
Most recently, Hasan was a key player in the investigation that led to the August arrest of Samaha on charges of collaborating with members of the Syrian regime to plot terror attacks in Lebanon.
The Information Branch was praised by ISF chief Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi for building the case against Samaha, who has been charged with transporting explosives into Lebanon with the help of Syrian Security Chief Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk in an attempt to destabilize the country.
A member of Hariri’s security team, Hasan has long been close to figures in the March 14 movement. He provided evidence to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s probe into the 2005 Hariri assassination, which eventually implicated high-ranking members of Hezbollah. He was also a close ally of Hariri’s son, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
The late Information Branch chief had long been a target of criticism by members of the March 8 movement for focusing investigations on pro-Syrian figures, such as Samaha, or other individuals close to the bloc.
Beginning in 2009, Hasan led the ISF’s wide-ranging inquiry into Israeli spy networks in Lebanon. The investigation led to the arrest of more than 100 individuals suspected of collaborating with Israel, including Free Patriotic Movement official and retired Lebanese Army General Fayez Karam Karam, a close ally of FPM leader Michel Aoun, who was released in April after serving a sentence of 20 months in prison.
Hasan had been the target of numerous assassination attempts. In January 2012, Rifi confirmed that a plot targeting Hasan had been foiled by the ISF. As a result, Hasan had been exercising extreme caution in his movements.
Members of Hasan’s team were also the subjects of attacks. In January 2008, Cpt. Wissam Eid, the ISF’s top anti-terrorism investigator involved in the Hariri probe, was killed in a car bomb blast along the Hazmieh highway along with three other people. ISF deputy intelligence chief Col. Samir Shehadeh, another aide to Hasan, was also targeted. In September 2006, Shehadeh survived a remotely detonated explosion that hit his convoy while traveling near Sidon.
Born in 1965, Hasan hails from the north Lebanon village of Btouratij, outside of Koura. The late security figure was promoted to the rank of brigadier general in January and had been tipped to take over as head of the ISF at the end of this year.
He is survived by his wife, Anna, and two children who currently live in Paris.