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UN Probe Into Murder Of Former Lebanese Leader

UN Probe Into Murder Of Former Lebanese Leader Points To Young Male Suicide Bomber

New York, Sep 29 2006 2:00PM

Evidence suggests that a young, male suicide bomber, probably non-Lebanese, detonated up to 1,800 kilograms of explosives inside a van to assassinate former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut last year, the head of the United Nations-backed investigation into the killing told the Security Council today.

Briefing the Council as he delivered his latest progress report on the work of the International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC), Serge Brammertz said DNA analysis conducted on human remains found at the crime scene “produced crucial results” about a man whom investigators believe carried out the bombing.

The report said a tooth found at the scene, and linked to more than 30 other pieces of human remains from an unknown individual, has been identified as belonging to a man in his early 20s. The tooth has a distinguishing mark on its surface, which investigators have concluded is rarely seen among the Lebanese.

Another complete tooth, located nearby earlier this year, is being tested to determine if it belongs to the same person and if that man’s regional origin can be identified.

Analysis of the explosion indicates that as much as 1,800 kilograms of TNT or its equivalent – and not 1,200 kilograms as previously suspected – was detonated in an improvised explosive device (IED) from inside a Mitsubishi van close to the convoy transporting Mr. Hariri through Beirut.

Mr. Brammertz said his investigating team is looking into evidence that Mr. Hariri was the subject of earlier surveillance and other assassination attempts before the bombing on 14 February last year, which also killed 22 others.

“It is likely that the alleged bombing team knew that electronic counter-measures were in place to protect the convoy and Rafik Hariri, and that they chose a method of attack that would not be impeded by such counter-measures,” he told Council members.

Mr. Brammertz, a Belgian prosecutor, stressed that his team is examining communications traffic around the attack, especially the probable use of cell phones to coordinate the bombing.

The IIIC has been tasked with probing 14 other bombings that have occurred in Lebanon since October 2004, and Mr. Brammertz said the latest evidence only strengthens his earlier conclusions that many of them were connected.

In his report, Mr. Brammertz said most UN Member States had responded positively and promptly so far to his requests for assistance, whether facilitating witness interviews, tracking telephone communications or analyzing forensic evidence. He added that Syria has provided “generally satisfactory” assistance to the probe.

Mr. Brammertz urged States to maintain their support for the Commission’s work, swiftly answer any future requests for help and ensure it has enough staff to carry out its duties.

The Security Council set up the IIIC in April 2005 after an earlier UN mission found Lebanon’s own investigation into the bombing was seriously flawed and that Syria was primarily responsible for the political tensions that preceded the assassination of Mr. Hariri. Its mandate runs until June next year. Mr. Brammertz took over the inquiry in January from Detlev Mehlis of Germany.

Ends

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