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FBI team arrives to help in Hasan investigation

Internal security forces carry the coffin of assassinated Wissam al-Hasan and of his driver during the funeral. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: A U.S. investigation team met with Lebanon’s state prosecutor Thursday before setting out on collecting evidence at the site of the bombing that killed intelligence chief Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan.

The team from the Federal Bureau of Investigation had arrived earlier Thursday at the request of the Lebanese government to help in the probe into last week’s car bomb that killed Hasan, his driver and a woman in the Beirut district of Ashrafieh.

Hasan, 47, opposed Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“The Federal Bureau of Investigation team is at the scene of the crime and has begun collecting evidence,” Interior Minister Marwan Charbel told AFP. “The team was sent to Lebanon at the request of the Lebanese government.”

Security forces cordoned off the explosion site in Ashrafieh and prevented journalists and photographers from approaching as the FBI team searched for samples, fingerprints and evidence in the area.

The United States announced Monday it would send an FBI team to help Lebanon investigate the car bomb that killed Hasan.

Washington has condemned the blast as a terrorist strike, but said it would wait for the results of the investigation before determining any further response.

The FBI team met with State Prosecutor Hatem Madi at his office at the Justice Ministry to discuss the ongoing investigation into Hasan’s killing.

Madi said the FBI team will provide technical help to Lebanese authorities in the probe into Hasan’s killing.

“This team will not participate in any investigation and is not authorized to be informed of the investigations held or that are being held with witnesses,” Madi told The Daily Star.

He said the nature of the FBI team’s work is not to interrogate people.

“The work of this team will be under my personal supervision from A to Z,” Madi said. He added that there was no time limit for the team’s work.

“The team will stay in Lebanon until they have fully accomplished their mission,” Madi said.

March 14 has blamed Assad and the government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati for Hasan’s assassination.

The opposition has demanded the government’s resignation as a condition for attending a new round of intra-Lebanese National Dialogue scheduled for Nov. 29.

Madi dismissed as untrue media speculation on the possible perpetrators of Hasan’s assassination.

“Every time a major security incident happens, such as the assassination of Maj. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, journalists and others deal with the judicial side of the incident – especially with regard to the investigations carried out by various security agencies – by analyzing, pinpointing responsibilities and only hinting at the perpetrators,” Madi said in a statement reported by Lebanon’s National New Agency .

“They attribute their reports to judicial or security sources,” he added.

“What has been said and will be said in the case of Hasan’s assassination and similar cases has nothing to do with the truth because it was not issued by the judicial source authorized to make statements,” he added.

Madi urged journalists to avoid talking clearly or implicitly about the judicial side of any case, particularly Hasan’s killing, because this would harm and obstruct the investigation.

Meanwhile, Al-Joumhouria published Thursday the names of 18 figures from the March 14 coalition it said were on an alleged hit list following Hasan’s assassination.

The Lebanese daily quoted an unidentified Western diplomat as the source for its report.

According to Al-Joumhouria, the list includes Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, former Prime Minister and head of the parliamentary Future bloc Fouad Siniora, former Defense Minister Elias Murr, head of the Internal Security Forces Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi, Batroun MP Butros Harb, a number of Future MPs and former MP Fares Soueid, coordinator of the March 14 Secretariat General. – With AFP

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 26, 2012, on page 1.

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