Lebanon mourns Hariri assassination; Syrian VP says Hariri killed due to ”political role”
Lebanon plunged into deep mourning and put its army on alert against violence Tuesday, a day after a huge bomb killed former Prime Minister Rafic al-Hariri.
Schools, banks and shops were shut down and the streets of Beirut were virtually empty on Tuesday as Lebanon began three days of mourning. Soldiers were deployed at some intersections after the armed forces were put on full alert and troops' leave was canceled.
Media reports said the death toll from the assassination attack has risen to 15. However, one Arab satellite network put the figure at 39. Television stations and radios played somber music or readings from the Quran, as the country prepared to bury Hariri in a funeral on Wednesday at a downtown Beirut mosque.
At the site of the bombing, troops clamped a cordon around the area. Explosive experts combed rooftops and the street in search of evidence that could reveal what caused the explosion. Security officials have not confirmed initial reports that said the blast was caused by a car bomb.
The dead included Hariri and seven of his bodyguards, crushed and burned in their heavily armored cars by the force of the explosion, which police estimated at about 660 pounds of TNT.
Former Economy Minister Bassel Fleihan, a member of parliament in Hariri's bloc, was among those severely wounded. He was flown to France on Monday for treatment.
Hariri's family scheduled his funeral for Wednesday. The 60-year-old former prime minister will be buried in the courtyard of Mohammed Al Amin Mosque, the largest in Lebanon. He financed the building of the mosque from his own pocket during his restructure of the city's war-torn downtown.
The government had decided on a state funeral for the "fallen national martyr." However, Hariri's bloc in parliament furiously rejected any participation by the Lahoud regime in the funeral services on the grounds that "the killer should not be allowed to walk behind the victim's casket."
Meanwhile, security forces searched the Beirut house of Ahmad Abu Adas, who is believed to be the man on the videotaped recording claiming responsibility for the ambush on behalf of the Victory and Jihad group, the Associated Press reported.
Adas, a Palestinian, fled during the day, according to unidentified security officials. Officers confiscated computers, tapes and documents in the raid, the agency said, citing the Interior Ministry.
In the meantime, the Syrian vice president said Tuesday, "Hariri was targeted because of his political role in boosting civil peace in Lebanon … Enemies of Lebanon and the Arab nation have interest in assassinating peace in Lebanon."
In an interview published by the London-based al-Hayat,Abdulhalim Khaddam highlighted that Hariri was a national Lebanese who struggled for achieving civil peace in Lebanon and had a great role in the al-Taef agreement.
He also added that, "Hariri did his best to serve the Palestinian cause and Syria", expressing deep sorrow over his death.
Furthermore, Khaddam stressed the importance of protecting the Lebanese national unity and to adhere to the civil peace due to its great significance for the Syrians and the Lebanese.
© 2005 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)