BEIRUT: Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani called Saturday for calm and self-restraint after the assassination of a top intelligence chief in a car bombing in Beirut and said those behind the “heinous crime” are well-known.
"We call on all Lebanese to exert patience and self-restraint and I tell you that the blood of the martyr [Brig. Gen.] Wissam al-Hassan and all the others will not go in vain and the perpetrators will be punished – sooner or later," Qabbani said from Dar al-Fatwa, the country's highest Sunni council.
The mufti also announced a three-day mourning period at the Muslim institution to be commence after the burial ceremony in Downtown Beirut and that Dar al-Fatwa would not receive congratulations over the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha next week.
On Friday, a massive car bomb ripped through the bustling Sassine Square in the Beirut neighborhood of Ashrafieh, killing at least five people, including Hasan, head of police’s Information Branch, and wounding 110 others.
The explosion has fueled fears of a return to the wave of assassinations that rattled Lebanon between 2005 and 2008.
As news emerged of Hasan's killing, angry residents across the country, particularly in the northern city of Tripoli and the southern coastal city of Sidon, blocked roads with burning tires in protest of the killing.
A brief exchange of fire erupted in the Tripoli neighborhood of Abi Samra leaving one sheikh dead as tensions ran high in other part of the city.
In his televised speech, Qabbani also condemned those behind the attack and said the objective was “very clear."
“Dar al-Fatwa denounces everyone who is behind the assassination of our son," he said.
"The goals behind the crime are very clear as well as its background and those who benefited from it are well-known,” he said.
Qabbani also said that during Hasan’s work at the police, the intelligence chief uncovered a number of “terrorist plots” in Lebanon and said his killing aimed at inciting division among Lebanese.
"We call on political, judicial and security authorities to participate in revealing the parties involved in the killing," the mufti said.
Meanwhile, the Army strongly condemned what it described as a “cowardly terrorist act,” and praised Hasan for dedicating his life in the service of his country.
“[The Army] strongly condemns this cowardly terrorist act and considers that the Brig. Gen. Hasan is a martyr of the military, security institutions and all of Lebanon,” a statement said.
The military also vowed to pursue the case of Hasan to the end “using all means and exerting all efforts to arrest the perpetrators and hand them over to the judiciary.”
“The Army notes to Lebanese that the martyr dedicated his life for the sake of the nation and scarified himself so that the [country] remains united, sovereign, free and independent,” the statement added.
It urged Lebanese to show solidarity and work toward preventing strife and division in the country.
The military also offered its condolences to the ISF as well as Hasan’s family and those who were killed or wounded in the attack.