Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Saturday that the deadly car bombing in Beirut that killed General Wissam al-Hassan was linked to the intelligence chief's recent case, in which he exposed an alleged plot by Syria to sow chaos in Lebanon.
“I do not want to preempt the investigation. But the natural context of what happened following the seizure of explosives two months ago and what happened yesterday. There must be a logical sequence that connects the two matters together. So, it is natural that i am linking the two issues without preempting the investigation,” Mikati said.
Under Hassan, the ISF played a central role in the August arrest of Lebanon’s former information minister Michel Samaha, who has close links to Damascus. He was charged with planning attacks to spark sectarian strife in Lebanon.
The agency was also deeply involved in seeking the arrest of those responsible for a host of attacks and assassinations between 2005 and 2008, starting with the Hariri assassination, for which Hassan blamed Damascus.
In October 2010, the Syrian courts issued arrest warrants against 33 Lebanese figures, including General Hassan, for perjury in the case of the Hariri assassination.
The country's key opposition groups, after an emergency meeting Friday, called on the government to step down.
“The government must leave and we call on Prime Minister Najib Mikati to resign immediately,” said Ahmad Hariri, secretary-general of the Future movement, reading from a statement.
“Prime Minister Najib Mikati is personally responsible for the blood of General Wissam al-Hassan and the innocent” victims of the attack, he added.
Mikati said the government would resign “soon or later” and called for a the formation of a national consensus government. he said the Lebanese president has asked him to stay on for a “period of time.”
“From the first day, or rather since three months ago I said i was not clinching to this government and not clinching to my position and I have called in a press interview about four months ago for the formation of a national consensus government. Today, I stress that such a government has to be formed,” Mikati said.
The slain intelligence chief was close to Hariri's son, Saad, who is leader of the opposition and hostile to Assad's regime. He had been tipped to take over as ISF head at the end of this year.
Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi condemned what he called a “terrorist, cowardly” attack. Such incidents were “unjustifiable wherever they occur,” he said.
But both Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt, Lebanon's Druze leader, accused the Syrian president of being behind the attack.
“We accuse Bashar al-Assad of the assassination of Wissam al-Hassan, the guarantor of the security of the Lebanese,” Hariri told a Lebanese TV station. Asked by Future Television who was responsible for the killing, Hariri replied: “Bashar Hafez al-Assad,” giving the full name of the Syrian president. Hariri’s father, Rafik al-Hariri, was killed seven years ago in a bombing which his supporters blamed on Damascus and Hezbollah, according to Reuters.
Jumblatt, a longtime critic of Damascus, also accused Assad.
“The Syrian regime is expert in political assassinations,” he told AFP. “Our response needs to be political. A president who burns Syria and is the executioner of Damascus does not care if Lebanon burns.”