Lebanon to bury slain intelligence official

by
October 21, 2012

(Reuters) – Lebanon’s political opposition has called for a mass turnout at Sunday’s funeral for slain intelligence officer Wissam al-Hassan, turning the ceremony into a political rally against Syrian authorities and Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

Hassan, who uncovered an alleged Syrian bomb plot inside Lebanon two months ago, was killed in a huge car bomb blast that also killed seven other people and wounded 80 in Beirut’s Ashrafiyeh district on Friday.

Former prime minister Saad al-Hariri blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the bombing and Lebanon’s political opposition demanded the resignation of Mikati, whose government includes Syria’s Shi’ite Muslim ally Hezbollah.

The death of Hassan, a Sunni Muslim from the northern city of Tripoli who was close to the powerful Hariri political clan, has inflamed Sunni anger. Protesters blocked roads with burning tyres and gunmen took to the streets of Beirut and Tripoli.

Deep-seated sectarian tensions in Lebanon, which fought a ruinous civil war from 1975 to 1990, have been exacerbated by the conflict in neighboring Syria, where majority Muslims are fighting to overthrow Assad, who is from the Alawite minority which has its roots in Shi’ite Islam.

Sunday’s funeral ceremony will set off from Hassan’s Internal Security Force headquarters in Ashrafiyeh, passing the site of Friday’s bombing before reaching Martyrs’ Square in central Beirut where he will be buried alongside Hariri’s father Rafik, killed in a 2005 bombing on the Beirut seafront.

“Every one of you is personally invited tomorrow to Martyr’s Square to the prayers for Wissam al-Hassan,” Saad Hariri said in a statement broadcast by Future Television on Saturday.

“All of Lebanon, which Wissam al-Hassan protected from the plots of Bashar al-Assad and Ali Mamlouk … exposing himself so that you would not be blown up,” Hariri said, referring to a Syrian general indicted in August over the alleged bomb plot.

LEBANON “COMBUSTIBLE”

Mikati said he wanted to resign to make way for a “consensus government” but had accepted a request by President Michel Suleiman to stay in office to allow time for talks on a way out of the political crisis “because there are fears that Lebanon could be dragged into strife”.

To read more, visit: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/20/us-lebanon-hassan-idUSBRE89J0GV20121020

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