London- The mystery of Abu Adas, a Palestinian refugee living in Lebanon, was resolved by the UN report into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on Friday as he was acquitted of any involvement in the murder.
The 24-year old had appeared in a videotape broadcast by al Jazeera television on February 14th 2005 , and announced he had carried out the bombing.
A previously unknown group, Victory and Jihad in Greater Syria, “Al Nusra wal Jihad fi Bilad al Sham” claimed responsibility for the murder and announced in a videotaped statement that the ex- Prime Minister had received the punishment he deserved.
Shown on the Qatar-based channel, the tape featured the confessions of Ahmad Abu Adas, who alleged he murdered Hariri, accusing him of being a Saudi agent, in revenge for those killed in the Kingdom.
UN investigator Detlev Mehlis indicated, in his report released on Friday, “Abu Adas was in Syria and forced to read out the statement at a military checkpoint after which he was killed. The tape was sent to Beirut the morning of February 14 th 2004 and a civilian with past criminal convictions was asked to accompany a security officer to the Hamra district in the capital where they were to leave the videotape and then contact Ghassan bin Jeddo, al Jazeera’s chief in Lebanon to inform him about the its location.”
In a chapter entitled Ahmad Abu Adas, the report reconstructed the Palestinian Islamists’ final hours. It also described how, around 2:11pm on the day of the assassination, an hour after Hariri was killed, an unknown individual telephone Leila Bassam, the Reuters bureau chief in Lebanon and spoke to her in a non-Lebanese accent”.
Fundamentalists in London who analyzed the videotape told Asharq al Awsat, “The message by Abu Adas broadcast on al Jazeera is highly suspicious.” Dr, Hani al Sibai, an Egyptian Islamist and Director of al Maqrizi Center in London said “The appearance of Abu Adas barefaced and the language he used were suspect.” In his view, the intelligence services implicated in the murder hid behind the “easy target”, which is al Qaeda and organizations that are linked to it, in an attempt “to blame Islamists” for the murder.
Watching Abus Adas on screen, “I felt he was being held captive and made to read a message prepared by someone else”, al Sibai recalled, adding that he had never heard of the organization which allegedly masterminded the attack on Hariri.
In her testimony to the UN probe, Bassam said an unknown individual contacted her at the office and dictating the following message:
“We, the Victory and Jihad in Greater Syria organization, claim responsibility for murdering Rafik Hariri. His killing should serve as an example to others.”
For his part, Bin Jeddo remembered receiving four separate telephone calls on February 14 th, from the same unknown group announcing it carried out the assassination.
The first caller, who had an “African, or Afghan, or Pakistani accent claimed he was from the al Nusra wal Jihad group which killed Hariri”, according to bin Jeddo.
Sometime later, the al Jazeera offices received a second call from another member of the organization who spoke fluent Arabic and explained to the staff how to retrieve the videotape with information on the attack. Ben Jeddo said he sent a colleague to a building in Beirut where he found an envelope with the tape and a written detailed explanation of the assassination inside.
Following repeated calls from members of the group inquiring why the Qatar based satellite channel had not yet broadcast the statement, the channel showed Abu Adas claiming responsibility for the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister.
Subsequent investigation revealed that Sheikh Ahmad Abdul Al, current leader of the fundamentalist al Ahbash group, which has a large following in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, received a telephone call from the presidential palace requesting information on Abu Adas.
UN investigators revealed they had evidence suggesting “The Syrian President’s brother-in-law, Asef Shawkat, took part in forcing Abu Adas to record the videotape, two weeks prior to Hariri’s assassination.”
The report added that the killing occurred over ground and no proof existed that Abu Adas drove the car which carried the explosives, adding that the Palestinian Islamist was used to mislead the investigation and that the tape was sent from Damascus to Major General Jamil Sayyed in Beirut before being left in the Hamra district and broadcast on the afternoon of February 14 th 2005.
“Abu Adas who left his home in Beirut in January for Damascus was killed in the Syrian capital”, the report indicated.
Al Qaeda organization in Syria “al Qaeda fi Bilad al Sham” denied in a statement broadcast on the internet the involvement of any Islamist militant groups in the assassination of Hariri. “The attempt to blame salafi or jihadist organizations aims at fostering conflict”, the message said, blaming instead the Syrian or Lebanese security services fir the murder.