The news is still trickling out about the bombing today in Beirut, but all media outlets are now confirming that the target was Brigadier-General Wissam al-Hassan, the head of the Information Branch of the Internal Security Forces.
I’ve written a great deal about Wissam al-Hassan over the past few years and will have more to say about him this evening, but for the time being, here’s a quick backgrounder, followed by several links to my blog posts about the most important events in which al-Hassan played a major role.
Wissam al-Hassan was one of the most important security figures in Lebanon. He headed up the Information Branch of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (fir` al-ma`lumat), and was recently responsible for arresting Michel Samaha, a former minister with close ties to Syria, for allegedly conspiring to have explosives blown up all around Lebanon in a bid to create havoc. The move was seen as very destabilizing in Lebanon because Wissam al-Hassan is very close to the March 14th coalition while Samaha had long been regarded as “untouchable” because of his connections to Damascus. And yet, none of Samaha’s Lebanese allies demanded his release. Many people were shocked at the ISF’s boldness and concluded that the evidence against Samaha (which allegedly included video and audio footage) was so compelling that he became politically radioactive to his allies.
Wissam al-Hassan has long been the target of March 8th ire. His branch of the police has been described as an independent fiefdom that is not under any real civilian control. Al-Hassan was a key security chief for former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, and was accused by some of having played a suspicious role in the build-up to the assassination in 2005. From March 14th’s perspective, the loss of al-Hassan is a major blow.
Hizbullah Tied to Hariri Plot…Again (Nov 22, 2010)
Saad al-Hariri Caught on Tape with “False Witness” (January 15, 2011)
Return of the Militias (April 6, 2011)
Syria’s Man in Lebanon Goes Downtown (August 2012)
Einstein and the Jackass (October 18, 2012)
I’m hearing now that Wissam al-Hassan lived in a building near the site of the explosion and that the route he took was probably a regular one between his house and the ISF headquarters (near the Lebanese Museum). Unfortunately, while there are security cameras all over the place on the actual street where he lives, it seems much less likely that there will be CCTV footage of the blast site.