Syrian interior minister leaves Beirut hospital
Beirut: Syria's interior minister, wounded in a Damascus bombing, headed home on a private jet Wednesday after treatment in Beirut, airport officials said, despite calls from some Lebanese to put him on trial for Syrian actions in their country.
Mohammed al-Shaar's departure coincided with the defection of the commander of Syria's military police.
Officials at Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport said al-Shaar left Beirut and was flying to Damascus. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Al-Shaar was wounded on Dec 12 when a suicide bomber exploded his vehicle outside the Interior Ministry, killing five and wounding many, including the minister.
The Syrian government denied at first that al-Shaar was wounded.
Then it emerged that he was brought to a Beirut hospital last week for treatment. The same minister was wounded when a bomb went off on July 18 during a high-level crisis meeting in Damascus, killing four top officials.
It was not clear if al-Shaar's treatment was completed or if he left because of political pressure. Lebanese are deeply divided over the Syria crisis.
The two neighbors have a long and bitter history.
Syrian forces moved into Lebanon in 1976 as peacekeepers after the country was swept in a civil war between Christian and Muslim militias. For nearly 30 years that followed, Lebanon lived under Syrian military and political domination.
That grip began to slip in 2005, when former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated in Beirut. Widely accused of involvement -- something it has always denied -- Syria was forced to withdraw its troops. Even so, Damascus has maintained power and influence in Lebanon.
In the 1980s, al-Shaar was a top intelligence official in northern Lebanon when Syrian troops stormed the port city of Tripoli and crushed the Islamic Unification Movement. Hundreds of people were killed in the battles in 1986, and since then, many in northern Lebanon have referred to al-Shaar as "the butcher of Tripoli."
Shortly after he arrived in Beirut for treatment last week, anti-Syrian politicians, including legislators Jamal Jarrah and Mohammed Kabbara, called for al-Shaar's arrest.
Another call came this week, when Lebanese lawyer Tarek Shandab filed a complaint to the country's prosecution accusing al-Shaar of "genocide and ethnic cleansing" in Tripoli.