Lebanese opposition figures on Saturday pointed fingers to the Hezbollah-led government in the murder of General Wissam al-Hassan, the internal intelligence chief who uncovered in August a Syria-linked plot to carry out a deadly bombing in the north of Lebanon.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea told Al Arabiya that “Wissam al-Hassan was killed because he stopped Michel Samaha and because he was possibly the one responsible or among those security officials who follow things to the end and uncover some of the plots that take place.”
Former Lebanese Information Minister Michel Samaha is a pro-Syrian Lebanese figure who was arrested in August and was accused of plotting a terrorist attack on behalf of the Syrian regime in the north of the country.
Geagea said the bombing was “a powerful blow for the state, for the Lebanese people as whole; a powerful security blow for the current government.”
“If it still has any feeling of nationalism, sovereignty and protecting the country, the government needs to see what it can do,” he said.
The Lebanese government is led by the Hezbollah movement, a strong ally of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“If there was no kind of cover-up, no one could have succeeded to assassinate Wissam al-Hassan. And if there was no security breach in the highest levels of the state, they would not have succeeded to do this.”
Geagea said al-Hassan had “moved around with exceptional security measures” and had sent his wife and children to Paris because he “knew he was a target,” he said.
The bombing was the most serious to hit the capital since Hariri’s 2005 assassination and prompted Sunni Muslims to take to streets across the country, burning tyres and blocking roads in a show of sectarian anger.
Hariri’s son, Saad al-Hariri, accused Assad of being behind the bombing, while Lebanon’s opposition March 14 bloc called on Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government, which includes ministers from Hezbollah, to resign over the bombing.
Lebanese ministers will hold an emergency cabinet meeting on Saturday to discuss the bombing.
The meeting is scheduled to get underway at 10:00 a.m. (0700 GMT), said a spokesman for Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
The government, which is dominated by the powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah, has declared Saturday a day of mourning, but the opposition has called for its resignation.
Hezbollah, which is closely allied to Assad’s regime, described the attack as “an attempt to destabilize Lebanon and national unity,” in a statement on its al-Manar television.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the “acts of terrorism” and called the murder of Hassan “a dangerous sign that there are those who continue to seek to undermine Lebanon’s stability.”
“Lebanon must close the chapter of its past and bring an end to impunity for political assassinations and other politically motivated violence,” Clinton said in a written statement.
The head of Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces, Major-General Ashraf Rifi, described Hassan’s death as a “huge blow” and warned that further attacks were likely.
“We’ve lost a central security pillar,” he told Future Television. “Without a doubt, we have more sacrifices coming in the future. We know that, but we will not be broken.”
Rubble and the twisted, burning wreckage of several cars filled the central Beirut street where the bomb exploded, ripping the facades and balconies off buildings.
Firefighters scrambled through the debris and rescue workers carried off the bloodied victims on stretchers. In the confusion following the blast, it took several hours before any official word emerged that Hassan had been targeted.