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Vehicle at scene day before Ashrafieh bomb: source

Lebanese soldiers and rescue workers inspect damage from an explosion in the mostly Christian neighborhood of Achrafiyeh, Beirut, Lebanon, Friday Oct. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

BEIRUT: A stolen vehicle containing two bombs was parked at the scene of the Ashrafieh bombing a day prior to the killing of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, a security source told The Daily Star Sunday.

“The car was parked at the scene of the bombing a day before detonation,” the source said.

The source added that two bombs were placed in the car to guarantee the vehicle would explode.

“The assassins probably placed two bombs in the car to guarantee it will explode,” said the source.

The source also said that the car likely to have been used in the bombing was a Toyota RAV4.

“Forensic evidence and explosives’ experts were able to find some parts of the vehicle used in the bombing and said the car was likely a stolen Toyota RAV4,” the source said.

According to the source, the investigation into Hasan’s probe is still at the evidence-gathering stage and it is too early to talk about any “positive results” in this regard.

Earlier on Saturday, Judge Hatem Madi, tasked with overseeing the probe into Friday’s car bomb, told The Daily Star Saturday that work currently centers on collecting evidence including footage from surveillance cameras at the site of the explosion.

“Security agencies have begun grabbing footage from surveillance cameras set up on buildings and companies surrounding the site of the explosion and have also begun work on gathering telecommunications data,” Madi said.

He added that the Information Branch has launched the investigation and have formulated several hypotheses, without revealing any further details.

A car bomb exploded Friday afternoon in the busy Sassine Square area of the Beirut district of Ashrafieh, killing at least five people including the head of the Internal Security Forces Information Branch Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, and wounding 110.

The explosion, estimated to have involved 50 kg of TNT, raised fears of a return to the series of political assassinations that have plagued the country between 2005 and 2008.

In an emergency session at Baabda Palace Saturday, the Cabinet asked the Telecommunications Ministry to release all “telecoms data” since Sept. 19 deemed necessary for such investigations to security agencies.

Ministers also agreed to modify the structure of the Internal Security Forces and to grant the police’s information wing legal status as a separate department rather than its current status as a branch of the ISF

The March 8 alliance, which dominates Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s Cabinet, has repeatedly questioned the legality of the Information Branch.

Madi also said that other security agencies are assisting in the investigation and are attempting to indentify the type of car used “after it turned into a piece of metal given the extent of the explosion and the site of the bomb.”

He added that no arrests have yet taken place but stressed that the current phase of the probe merely focuses on gathering information and building hypotheses.

Friday's assassination drew strong condemnations from all political parties in the country particularly the opposition March 14 group, which held Mikati personally responsible for the blood of Hasan.

In a news conference Saturday following the emergency Cabinet session, Mikati offered his resignation and gave President Michel Sleiman time to consult members of the National Dialogue Committee on the matter.

 

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