Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan, head of the intelligence branch of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces, was assassinated in a car bomb explosion in Beirut's Ashrafiya district. This is a harbinger of great danger, signaling that the theatre of the al-Assad regime’s criminal practices is widening beyond the Syrian people.
We have warned repeatedly that the regime in Damascus will seek to expand its theater of operations whenever it feels it is becoming increasingly besieged politically, militarily and economically. Now it is turning its attention to the best security men in Lebanon, who have acted in a manner far from subordination to Syrian security.
I knew Wissam al-Hassan personally when he was responsible for the security of the martyred former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. He was a man of few words but great security expertise. He once told me that: “an independent Lebanon must have internal security that stems from within and national sovereignty that does not follow any political reference in Damascus or religious reference in Tehran”.
Brigadier General al-Hassan played a pivotal role in providing crucial evidence in the case of the assassination of martyr Rafik Hariri and his companions, and then he had a major role in thwarting a group of Israeli spy cells that had been active over the past few years inside Lebanon.
The last successful operation carried out by his intelligence branch was to provide a complete file, with video and audio, implicating the former Information Minister Michel Samaha - who was thought to serve as a special political advisor to the Syrian President and his security apparatus - in the bombing and killing of an Islamic figure during their visit to Akkar; a Christian majority area.
The Syrian security forces considered this file to be a severe blow, and the first documented exposure of their criminal activities in Lebanon. As for Hezbollah, its statements have long confirmed that the party rejects al-Hassan and his intelligence branch, calling for it to be abolished with all its men and its activities.
The assassination of Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan was carried out in order to achieve the following aims:
1. To send a response to the arrest of former minister Michel Samaha.
2. To attempt to incite sedition by killing a high-level Sunni security official in a Christian area.
3. To intimidate and terrorize all Lebanese political forces, most notably the Future Movement headed by Saad Hariri.
4. To send Saad Hariri a message that any kind of support for the Syrian opposition will be paid for with the heads of his allies.
A short time ago, Wissam al-Hassan was on an official visit to Germany where he met with security leaders there. He was told: “your apparatus, despite the lack of equipment, hardware and finance, is among the most efficient intelligence forces in the region”.
His death was an assassination and a criminal operation.
The writer is an Egyptian columnist at several Arab publications. This article was published in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat on Oct. 21, 2102