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Geagea says escapes assassination attempt
LF leader Samir Geagea speaks during a press conference in Maarab, north Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, April 4, 2012. (The Daily Star/Aldo Ayoub, HO)
LF leader Samir Geagea speaks during a press conference in Maarab, north Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, April 4, 2012. (The Daily Star/Aldo Ayoub, HO)
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BEIRUT: Samir Geagea said Wednesday he had escaped an assassination attempt when shots were fired at his residence and warned that political assassinations of the last decade had not ended.

“It appears that the shooting on Maarab was by a sniper and that more than one individual may have been involved. This time, I say in all honesty, it was not a message: they wanted to end it all,” the Lebanese Forces leader said at a news conference at his residence, hours after an LF statement reported a shooting at the complex in Kesrouan, which also serves as the party’s headquarters.

The LF leader said the operation, which took place before noon, had required expertise, claiming the shots had been fired several kilometers from the target site.

“Someone was monitoring for over 24 hours [the site] and gave the signal to carry out the operation. For this reason I say one of them was a professional,” he told reporters.

“Maraab’s security was not compromised but a professional is behind the operation and he pulled it off from between 4 to 5 kilometers away,” he added.

In its statement earlier in the day, the LF said security at the facility responded immediately after the shots were fired at 11:33 a.m. and located the site where the shots had been fired, citing the discovery of casings, which Geagea said indicated the bullets fired ranged between 12.7 and 14.5 calibers.

Geageas’ allies, including former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, denounced the attack.

“The attempted assassination of Dr. [Geagea], which comes as part of a long series of assassinations targeting leading Lebanese national figures, is an attempt to eliminate a prestigious and significant figure in Lebanese political life,” Hariri said, according to a statement from the Future Movement leader’s office.

“This terrorist attack that failed ... imposes great responsibilities on Lebanese political and security authorities to follow up the case, unveil all the circumstances surrounding it, and inform the public of what truly happened and what is being planned to threaten Lebanon and its stability,” he added.

Hariri, according to the statement, contacted Geagea and expressed solidarity with his ally and voiced outrage at the assassination attempt this morning.

Although Geagea said he would not accuse any party in the case, he said the incident represented a continuation of the series of assassinations of politicians in the country that began in 2004.

“We are in front of a real series of crimes. Some thought that the series of assassinations ended after the Doha Accord but this is not the case,” he said, referring to a Qatar-sponsored treaty that ended days of clashes between supporters of the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition and Future Movement-led March 14 alliance in May 2008.

The March 14 coalition, of which Geagea is a leading member, also condemned the attack on the LF chief.

“The March 14 secretariat general condemns the attack on the headquarters of the Lebanese Forces in Maarab, Kesrouan, which is also the residence of its leader Dr. Samir Geagea,” the statement said.

It called on the government to uncover “the circumstances surrounding this serious incident that targeted a great national figure and a leader in the March 14 coalition, especially that this attack comes as part of the provocative behavior by symbols that remain within the sphere of influence of the Syrian regime.”

During his news conference, Geagea said authorities who were called in to investigate are searching the forest in the vicinity for the culprits, adding that the helicopter swooping overhead was part of the operation.

 
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