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Lebanon crisis

Lebanon’s growing list of assassinations: A historical perspective

Published: Updated:

Lebanon has the lion's share of political assassinations, with the bulk of them, top politicians, ministers, parliamentarians, security officials, activists, and journalists all killed over the past decade.

The Lebanese security forces found the body of prominent Hezbollah critic, Lokman Slim shot to death on Thursday, after he went missing in the country's southern region, which the Iran-backed extremist group heavily controls.

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His murder comes as a reminder of the wave of assassinations of influential people critical of Hezbollah's and Syria's influence in Lebanon in the wake of the killing of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri in 2005.

On October 1, 2004, a car explosion targeted Marwan Hamadeh's motorcade. The Lebanese politician and journalist was a critic of Lebanon's Syrian occupation of Lebanon, and opposing efforts to grant the pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud a proposed three-year extension to his rule. Hamadeh suffered injuries while his driver and bodyguard were killed.

A combination picture of Salim Jamil Ayyash is shown in this undated handout picture released at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon website July 29, 2011. (File photo: Reuters/Special Tribunal for Lebanon)
A combination picture of Salim Jamil Ayyash is shown in this undated handout picture released at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon website July 29, 2011. (File photo: Reuters/Special Tribunal for Lebanon)

On February 14, 2005, the former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri assassination took place when a bomber detonated a van with explosives next to his armored convoy in Beirut. The attack killed 21 civilians, including legislator Bassel Fleihan, and injured 226 people. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon, last year sentenced Salim Ayyash, a mid-level Hezbollah operative, for the crime.

On June 2, 2005, a car bomb in Beirut killed Samir Kassir, an outspoken journalist and opposition figure who railed against Syria's presence in Lebanon.

In the same month, a bomb exploded under George Hawi's vehicle's passenger seat, killing him and injuring his driver. The Lebanese politician and former secretary-general of the Lebanese Communist Party was an outspoken critic of Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs.

In September, Ali Ramez Tohme, a journalist who had just published a book about Hariri, escaped an attempted assassination. A bomb exploded under his car's driver's seat, but he was not in the vehicle.

Members of security forces stand guard near a billboard depicting Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, who was killed in a 2005 suicide bombing, in Sidon, southern Lebanon. (File photo: Reuters)
Members of security forces stand guard near a billboard depicting Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, who was killed in a 2005 suicide bombing, in Sidon, southern Lebanon. (File photo: Reuters)

September also saw, May Chidiac, a Lebanese news anchor, and a strong critic of Syria, seriously wounded when a bomb exploded in her car near the port city of Jounieh.

Closing 2005, December saw Gebran Tueni, an outspoken critic of Syria, former MP and leading figure in the March 14 movement, killed by a car bomb while driving through Mkalles, en route to the An-Nahar building in Downtown Beirut.

From 2006, the number of assassinations, and attempted killings has seldom dipped.

That year saw the Lebanese cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel gunned down in his car, jolting a nation already paralyzed by the political conflict that threatened to topple the government.

The murders of anti-Syrian lawmakers, Walid Eido and Antoine Ghanem happened in 2007, with latter’s assassination coming less than a week before Lebanon's parliament was due to elect a new president.

In 2008, the Wissam Eid car bomb killing saw the death of one of Lebanon's top terrorism investigators. Eid played a crucial role in gathering evidence on the killing of Hariri in 2005.

A car bomb killed Wissam Al Hassan in 2012. The Head of the Internal Security Forces' intelligence branch led an investigation into Hezbollah's alleged role in the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic al-Hariri.

2013 saw the car bombing murder of Mohamad Chatah, an adviser to Saad Hariri, and a staunch critic of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Lebanon's Hezbollah.

Activists gather two days after the killing of prominent Hezbollah critic Lokman Slim in Beirut. (File photo: Reuters)
Activists gather two days after the killing of prominent Hezbollah critic Lokman Slim in Beirut. (File photo: Reuters)

Getting away with murder

While the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon convicted Salim Ayyash of Hariri’s murder last year, it acquitted three others accused of involvement, with all four alleged Hezbollah members. None attended the trial.

According to the tribunal, many people responsible for attacks in Lebanon between October 1, 2004, and December 12, 2005, are connected to Rafic Hariri's assassination.

In failing to identify the political players behind the assassination, the tribunal fell far short of its original goal, to end the culture of impunity that allowed political violence to flourish unchecked in Lebanon for years.

Read more:

Lokman Slim ‘may have been tortured’ before he was assassinated: Family

Lokman Slim and the anatomy of assassinations in Lebanon

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