Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – Lebanon’s Interior Minister Marwan Charbel revealed that the ongoing investigations into the assassination of Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan – the former head of the intelligence branch of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces, who was killed along with his companions in a car bomb last Friday – are “advancing rapidly”. He added that the public prosecutor is now examining “very important new leads”. Meanwhile, security information sources have revealed that the Lebanese authorities have determined the name of the thief who stole the vehicle, which would eventually be used as the car bomb to assassinate al-Hassan, and he is wanted under several arrest warrants.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Lebanese security sources ruled out the direct involvement of the wanted man in the terrorist operation, but noted that speaking to him would be a vital key to tracking down the perpetrators. It is likely that the thief sold the vehicle on to someone else, who then used it in the operation.
The security forces indicated that the car, a Toyota RAV4, was owned by a resident of the town of Qabr Chmoun on Mount Lebanon, but it had been reported stolen about a year ago. The owner of the car reported that someone had contacted him after a period of time to request a sum of money in return for the car, as is the usual practice of some car thieves in Lebanon. The owner refused to comply with the offer, and so the caller told him: “When you decide to pay the amount contact me on the number I called you on”. The caller was speaking from a mobile phone number that appeared on the screen of the owner’s phone, which he subsequently handed over to the authorities.
The Lebanese Central News Agency revealed yesterday that al-Hassan arrived in Beirut at 7pm on Thursday evening, returning from Germany via France after participating in a security conference held in Berlin along with the Director General of the Internal Security Forces and a number of senior officers in the Directorate. Al-Hassan then flew to Paris to meet his family without informing the other members of the delegation about his whereabouts. Upon his arrival in Beirut, al-Hassan contacted the Interior Minister Marwan Charbel to discuss some security matters and to arrange a date to meet. Prior to his trip to Germany, al-Hassan had met with Charbel to put a number of security issues on the table. Al-Hassan then travelled in a rental car from the airport to his apartment in Ashrafiya, whilst he would customarily travel via motorcade to the General Directorate of the Internal Security Forces.
On Friday afternoon, al-Hassan decided to travel to his office in the Directorate using the same rental car. However, a car bomb, parked in the district hours before, i.e. after al-Hassan had returned from his trip abroad, exploded the moment that his vehicle approached it.