The UN investigator of the Hariri murder: Syria tried to mislead the investigation

Converging evidence points at both Lebanese and Syrian involvement in the assassination plot against former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri on February 14, 2005.
This is the primary conclusion of UN investigator Detlev Mehlis whose interim report is to be submitted Friday to the UN Security Council and the Lebanese and Syrian governments after he handed it in to UN secretary Kofi Annan. The full text was obtained by debkafile October 20 before general publication.
Other conclusions: The crime was carried out by a group with extensive organization and considerable resources and capabilities. It was prepared over several months. The timing and location of Rafiq Hariri’s movements was monitored in detail.
Given the pervasive presence of Syrian Military Intelligence in Lebanon, it would be difficult to envisage a scenario where this assassination plot could have been carried out without their knowledge.
The likely motive was political in the context of extreme political polarization and tension. Certain individuals may also have been motivated by fraud, corruption and money-laundering.
The UN inquiry established that many leads point directly toward Syrian security officials being involved with the assassination, Syria must clarify many unresolved questions. Several Syrian interviewees tried to mislead the investigation. A letter from the Syrian foreign minister contained false information.
In the four months of the UN inquiry, more than 400 persons have been interviewed, 60,000 documents reviewed, suspects identified and main leads established. The investigation is not complete and should be continued by the Lebanese judicial and security authorities. The February 14 murder should be assessed in the light of the blasts which preceded and followed it.
Some key findings as detailed in the Mehlis interim report are disclosed here for the first time.
1. A few hours after the explosion, major evidence was removed from the crime scene, including the cars of the Hariri convoy which were transferred to the Helou barracks. A bulldozer was introduced on the day of the explosion on orders from
General Mustapha Hamdan, the Commander of President Lahoud’s security detail who had nothing to do with the crime scene investigation.
2. A witness of Syrian origin who claimed to have worked for Syrian intelligence in Lebanon stated that two weeks before the adoption of Security Council resolution 1559 (ordering Syrian forces to quit Lebanon), senior Lebanese and Syrian officials decided to assassination Rafiq Hariri. A senior Lebanese security official went to Syrian several times to plan the crime. Some of his meetings took place at the presidential palace. Early February, an officer told the witness there would soon be an earthquake that would rewrite Lebanese history.
On February 11, 12 and 13, the witness observed a white Mitsubishi van with a white tarpaulin over a flatbed at the Syrian base of Hammana. The vehicle, later proving to be the bomb carrier, left the base on the morning of February 14. Earlier on January 21, the Mitsubishi entered Lebanon through the Beqaa border, driven by a Syrian colonel from the Army Tenth Division. On February 13, the day before the blast, the witness drove one of the Syrian officers on a reconnaissance exercise to the St. George area of Beirut.
3. General Jamil Al-Sayyed (head of Lebanese general intelligence) cooperated closely with General Mustapha Hamdan and General Raymond Azar (chief of Lebanese gendarmerie) in preparing the assassination. He also coordinated with General Rustum Ghazali (head of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon) and, among others, members of the Palestinian Front headed by Ahmed Jibril in Lebanon. General Hamdan and General Azar provided logistical support, providing money, telephones, cars, walkie-talkies, pagers, weapons, ID-cards etc.
4. Another “witness” who later became a suspect, Zuhir Ibn Mohamed Said Saddik, stated that the decision to assassinate Mr. Hariri had been taken in Syria, followed by clandestine meetings in Lebanon between senior Lebanese and Syrian officers. These meetings started in July 2004 and lasted until December 2004. The seven senior Syrian officials (interviewed by the UN investigator) and four senior Lebanese officials (later detained) were alleged to have been involved in the plot.
5. Saddik said the driver assigned to the Mitsubishi was an Iraqi individual who was led to believe the target was Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi (who happened to be in Beirut prior to the assassination). The explosives used were of the kind used in Iraq so as to misdirect suspicions towards extremist Islamic groups.
Saddik later confessed in a handwritten document that he had participated in the planning phase of the assassination. He was subsequently arrested.
6. The day before the assassination, the head of Hariri`s close protection unit, Yehya Al-Arab alias Abu Tareq, had a meeting with General Ghazali. He was so shaken up by that meeting that he went home, turned off his phone and stayed there for a few hours. The version given by General Ghazali of this meeting is not compatible with other testimony.
7. In November 2004, General Al-Hajj, Head of the Internal Security Forces, ordered the state security detail around Mr. Hariri reduced from 40 to eight guards.
8. Eight telephone numbers and 10 mobile telephones were used to organize surveillance on Hariri and to carry out the assassination. The lines were put into circulation on 4 January 2005 in the northern part of Lebanon, between Terbol and Menyeh and used to observe Mr. Hariri’s habits, mostly in Beirut city.
9. On 14 February 2005, six of the telephones were used in the area between Parliament Square and the St. George Hotel and the axes of Zqaq el Blat and Al Bachoura – the route of the Hariri convoy.
Beginning at approximately 1100 hrs on 14 February 2005, cell site records show that cellular telephones utilizing these six calling cards were situated so that they covered every possible route linking Parliament to Kuraytem Palace. The calls — and the usage of the cards — terminated at 1253 hrs on 14 February, a few minutes before the blast. The lines have all been inactive since.
10. The technical department of Lebanese Military intelligence Service, headed by Col.Ghassan Tufayli, placed important figures, including Hariri, under permanent wiretapping. The protocols were forwarded on a daily basis to General Raymond Azar and to the head of the army, General Michel Suleyman. Tufayli admitted that protocols were sent to the Lebanese President and to General Ghazali, the head of the Syrian Military Intelligence Service in Lebanon.
11. The CCTV of the HSBC bank, located close to the scene of the explosion showed a white Mitsubishi Canter van entering the area of the explosion shortly before Mr. Hariri’s convoy and moving six times more slowly than other vehicles on the same stretch of road. The car entered the area one minute and 49 seconds before the Hariri convoy. Through collected samples of a part of the engine block, the vehicle was identified as a Mitsubishi stolen on 12 October 2004 in Sagamihara City, Japan.
12. The weakness of the Lebanese authorities’ initial action and the tampering with evidence during the first crime scene examination have made it difficult to identify the type of explosives used in the blast and track it to source – and thus denied the investigation an important lead to the perpetrators.
13. It appears that at least one of the three jamming devices in Hariri’s convoy was operational and functioning on 14 February at the time of the blast. Further investigation may provide information about how the explosion was activated.
14. It appears that there was interference with a telecommunications antenna in the crime scene area at the time of the blast. This line of enquiry should be thoroughly pursued.
15. The German and Swiss expert teams deduce from the distribution of the so far located parts of the Mitsubishi Canter truck that the vehicle was possibly used as the bomb carrier. An aboveground explosion is the most feasible possibility – in which case around 1,000 kg would have been used of extra-high explosive. Samples from the crater wall indicate TNT. No sign of the trigger was found.
16. The physical evidence and the fact that small human remains were found of an unidentified person, but no large body parts such as legs, feet or lower arms, points to a suicide bomber as the most likely cause of the blast. Another only slightly less likely possibility is that of a remotely-controlled device. However, no residues of such a device have been recovered from the crime scene.
17. The Palestinian Abu Adass, who claimed responsibility for the murder in the name of an Islamic radical organization on a videotape aired by al Jazeera TV, was no more than a decoy. He was detained in Syria and forced at gunpoint to record the video tape. The videotape was sent to Beirut on the morning of 14 February 2005, and handed over to Gen Jamil Al Sayyed (head of Lebanese General Intelligence) A civilian with a criminal record and a security officer placed the tape somewhere in Hamra and notified Ghassan Ben Jeddo, an Al-Jazeera TV reporter.
There is no evidence that Abu Adass belonged to the group al nasra wal-jihad fee bilad Al-Sham as claimed in the videotape, or even that such a group ever existed. There are no indications (other than the videotape) that he drove a truck containing the bomb that killed Hariri. The evidence does show that Abu Adass left his home on 18. January 2005 and was taken, voluntarily or not, to Syria, where he was most probably killed.

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