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Beirut Blast: Mystery over murder of two customs colonels killed three years apart

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About four months after the Beirut port blew up, a retired customs officer, Mounir Abu Rjeily, was found dead, on Wednesday, in Qartaba area (northern Lebanon). A forensic evidence team came to the crime scene and began investigations, which raised many questions, mainly since a completely similar crime occurred three years ago. Its investigation did not lead to any results.

Shortly after the murder of Colonel Mounir Abu Rjeily, pictures of the Colonel have surfaced online with Colonel Joseph Skaf. He was mysteriously killed in a similar crime three years ago. Sources confirmed to Al Arabiya English that the two had a close relationship.

After the Beirut port explosion, a leaked document showed that Skaf was the first to warn of ammonium nitrate danger. On February 21, 2014, he had a telegram directed to the Ministry of Finance's Audit and Search for Smuggling department. He stated that it is necessary to remove the ship carrying ammonium nitrate outside the Beirut port.

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Friends and family of Skaf have raised concerns that the death of their beloved was not an incident but instead had a direct correlation with whoever wanted to store the Ammonium Nitrate at the port.

After the killing of Skaf, two forensic doctors assigned by the Public Prosecution to examine the body issued two contradictory reports. One of the two reports indicated that what happened was a fate and that his foot had slipped. The second report confirmed that Skaf was pushed on purpose from a height of three meters.

Georges Hayek, Member of the Central Council of the Lebanese Forces, considered that the killing of Colonel Mounir Abu Rjeily, former head of anti-smuggling in customs, does not appear to be a mere coincidence.

"It is not a coincidence that there is a friendship between Abu Rjeily and Colonel Joseph Skaf, who died suspiciously, they knew about the corridors of the port until they were killed in a mafia way. An international investigation is required," Hayek added.

"What is behind the killing of Colonel Mounir Abu Rjeily, former head of anti-smuggling in the Lebanese Customs? Is this horrific event to disrupt any serious investigation into the bombing case in the Beirut port?" Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt tweeted.

Resigned Member of the Lebanese Parliament Neemat Frem tweeted: "We want answers from the state on the killing of a retired customs colonel, Mounir Abu Rjeily, and the killing of Colonel Joseph Skaf, whose investigation has not concluded since 2017! Analyzing the clues of the two incidents and their possible relationship to the port explosion is important for extracting hypotheses and reaching justice for the people and the families of the victims - if there is any link!"

Despite the controversy, sources close to the judicial and security personnel in charge of the Beirut port explosion's investigation said there was no correlation between the two events and the explosion, reported a local newspaper.

"Preliminary data have indicated that the crime of killing him was motivated by theft. The victim probably resisted the suspects, and they killed him, revealing that the house's belongings were scattered. The suspects also stole two televisions from the victim's house," the newspaper added.

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