Hariri killing: Lebanon tribunal names 4 suspects

Last Updated: Saturday, July 30, 2011 - 00:55

Amsterdam: The UN-backed Lebanon tribunal on Friday released the names, photographs and details of four men wanted for killing statesman Rafik al-Hariri, saying it had acted in a bid to speed up their arrest.

Lebanon received the indictments and four arrest warrants from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon last month. While the suspects were not named then, Lebanese officials said the accused were members of the Shi`ite militant movement Hezbollah.

Hezbollah accuses the tribunal of being a tool of the United States and Israel and denies any link to the 2005 assassination.

Pre-trial judge Daniel Fransen ordered the lifting of confidentiality on the full names, aliases, biographical information, photographs and charges against the individuals named in the indictment, the tribunal said in a statement.

"The Prosecutor further submits that making the requested information available in public fora may increase the likelihood of apprehending the accused in the event that any of them are noticed by the public," the tribunal said in a statement.

There was no immediate reaction from Hezbollah, but an analyst said the release of the names was unlikely to help catch the suspects because the men were no longer in the country.

Hilal Khashan, a Lebanon-based political commentator, said that the Lebanese government, which is backed by Hezbollah, was unable to assist the tribunal.

"The government says they are cooperating with the tribunal but they haven`t found anyone. We know that the four members are not in Lebanon. Hezbollah removed them from the scene to help the government, which can now say it looked for the four but couldn`t find them," he said.

"Hezbollah did this because it would be very embarrassing for the government if the four were on Lebanese territory."

The suspects named were Mustafa Amine Badreddine, a senior Hezbollah figure and brother-in-law of slain Hezbollah commander Imad Moughniyeh, as well as Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra.

CRISES

Hariri`s assassination plunged Lebanon into a series of political crises, killings and bombings that led to sectarian clashes in May 2008, dragging the country to the brink of civil war.

Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, said that naming the suspects might have little impact in Lebanon, but added the tribunal had the potential to "rock the boat in Lebanon" and turn public opinion against Hezbollah.

"If the evidence presents a convincing and complete story about how Hezbollah was involved in the assassination of Hariri, that could really stick with a big segment of public opinion," he told Reuters.

Any evidence linking Hezbollah to the killing would play into the hands of the opposition, Salem said. The opposition is led by Hariri`s son Saad, whose unity government was toppled by Hezbollah and its allies in January after he refused demands that he renounce the tribunal.

Earlier this month, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the authorities would never arrest members of the Shi`ite militant group. He dismissed the accusations as unfounded and a failed attempt to sow strife and bring down Lebanon`s new Hezbollah-backed government.

"They cannot find them or arrest them in 30 days or 60 days, or in a year, two years, 30 years or 300 years," Nasrallah said at the time.

Following the issue of the arrest warrants, Lebanese authorities have until August 11 to inform the tribunal of the measures taken.

"The Lebanese authorities have an ongoing obligation after that date, to continue a search for the accused," Martin Youssef, spokesman for the Tribunal, told Reuters.

Hezbollah, both a Shi`ite political movement and guerrilla army, said it had nothing to do with the huge explosion on the Beirut seafront which killed Hariri, a Sunni Muslim who served several terms as prime minister, and 22 others in February 2005.
United Nations : The United Nations on Friday slapped sanctions on the Pakistani Taliban -- thought to be behind last year`s failed bombing attempt on New York`s Times Square -- for having links with al Qaeda.

The UN Security Council said its sanctions committee dealing with al Qaeda had imposed an assets freeze as well as a travel ban and arms embargo on the Pakistani group, also known by its Urdu name of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP.

A council statement said the committee, which maintains a list of sanctioned groups and individuals, had also imposed the same measures on the Caucasus Emirate organization, an Islamist insurgent group based in Russia`s North Caucasus.

Founded in 2007 as a merger of some dozen groups, the TTP is based in tribal areas along Pakistan`s border with Afghanistan and is led by Hakimullah Mehsud, who is already on the sanctions list. A Pakistani newspaper reported this month that Mehsud`s control of the group may now be weakening.

The TTP claimed responsibility for a botched attempt by Pakistani-born American Faisal Shahzad to explode a crude bomb packed into a sport utility vehicle in Times Square in May of last year. The bomb failed to go off and Shahzad was jailed for life in the United States.

In Pakistan, the TTP has claimed responsibility for a string of attacks including a 2009 strike on a police academy in Lahore that killed eight cadets and an assault on a Karachi naval base two months ago. It also claimed it carried out a suicide attack that killed seven CIA employees at a US base in Afghanistan in December, 2009.

Both the TTP and the Caucasus Emirate are on the US list of foreign terrorist organizations.

Security Council diplomats said the designation of the TTP on the U.N. sanctions list had been supported by Pakistan`s government.

Britain`s UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said "sends a powerful signal of the international community`s solidarity and resolve in the fight against the TTP and international terrorism."

The move would "help to reduce its ability to operate effectively and perpetrate terrorist attacks," he said in a statement.

The Security Council formerly kept a joint sanctions list for al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban but recently split them into two and took 14 names off the Afghan Taliban list in what envoys said was a bid to entice the group into peace talks.

The Caucasus Emirate, founded in 2007, is led by Doku Umarov, Russia`s most wanted Islamist militant. Chechen-born Umarov, who has a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head, claimed responsibility for masterminding a January suicide bombing of Moscow`s Domodedovo airport, which killed 37 people.

Bureau Report



First Published: Saturday, July 30, 2011 - 00:55

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