Lebanon Druse leader Jumblatt fears may be ”next target” following Hariri assassination
In his final days former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic al-Hariri feared for his life - and that of his ally, Walid Jumblatt. Jumblatt, the most prominent anti-Syrian voice in Lebanon, recalled a conversation he had with Hariri about two weeks before his assassination.
"I have a feeling one of us is going to be killed, either you or me," Jumblatt quoted Hariri as saying.
Hariri, a Sunni Muslim who was tilting toward the opposition, died February 14 in a bomb blast in Beirut. Now Jumblatt, a Druse warlord turned politician, is holed up in his ancestral mountain palace, worried he may be next.
"I am taking security precautions. But at the end of the day, I cannot shut myself indoors forever," he told The Associated Press in an interview Sunday.
Jumblatt, 55, says Hariri's death was the work of Syrian and Lebanese intelligence agents, an accusation their governments have denied.
At the gates to the stone palace in Mukhtara, 19 miles southeast of Beirut, guards thoroughly search visitors. "These are difficult times," one says apologetically. Inside, hundreds of supporters — politicians, Druse sheiks, women wearing traditional white scarves — stroll the garden and reception areas.
Jumblatt — a government critic who effectively heads the Lebanese opposition — has stepped up his campaign to end Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs since Hariri's death.
"The entire Lebanese people want freedom, independence and democracy. And I am simply one of those people," Jumblatt said on the balcony of the palace.
"The Syrian president must reconsider the presence and conduct of his troops and intelligence forces in Lebanon. We don't want to be the enemies of Syria, but we don't want Syrian intelligence to rule Lebanon," he said.