BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) – A possible attempt to assassinate a Lebanese judge was foiled Saturday after police and explosives experts found batteries and wires under his car, security officials said.
No trace of explosives, however, was found near the car of Judge Nazem Khoury, who is overseeing the probe into the financial scandals of Lebanon”s Al-Madina Bank and ordered its closure.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give official statements, said Khoury had recently received threats from unknown sources.
The incident comes at a time of high tension in Lebanon, as a U.N.-mandated probe into former Premier Rafik Hariri”s assassination near its end and a spate of bombings targeting politicians, journalists as well as commercial and residential areas continues.
The security officials said Khoury”s neighbors in the town of Sahel Alma, north of Beirut, noticed suspicious activity around his car at 2 a.m. Saturday (2300 GMT Friday) and alerted the judge. When Khoury checked on his car from his balcony, he saw a man jump away and leave on a motorcycle with another man.
He alerted the police, who found batteries with wires attached under his car, in addition to cut wires under the steering wheel. Experts and police dogs found no trace of explosives and it was not clear if it was an attempt to assassinate Khoury or sabotage his car.
Khoury is overseeing the case of the scandal-ridden Al-Madina Bank, where a cash deficit of more than US$300 million (¤237.3 million) and other irregularities became public in July 2003. The news prompted Lebanon”s Central Bank to step in and take control of the bank.
The fugitive chairman of the bank filed a lawsuit in May claiming that the former chief of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon and three of his brothers embezzled more than US$70 million (¤55.37 million) in depositors” money.
The incident Saturday comes less than a week after prominent television anchorwoman May Chidiac narrowly escaped an assassination attempt through a bomb placed under her car. Chidiac lost her left leg and arm in the blast and is still in intensive care.
The attack against Chidiac was the 14th bombing to hit Lebanon in the past year, killing politicians, journalists and other Lebanese. The most devastating blast came Feb. 14, killing former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 20 other people in Beirut.
The government has said it was helpless to identify who was behind the terror campaign that ensued and has warned of the potential for more violence ahead of the release of results of the U.N. Hariri investigation.