- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2005

BEIRUT — The commander of the Presidential Guards, three former security chiefs and a former lawmaker are suspects in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Lebanon’s prime minister said yesterday.

Prime Minister Fuad Saniora confirmed that the three pro-Syrian former security chiefs had been detained for questioning earlier yesterday and that the guards’ commander, Brig. Gen. Mustafa Hamdan, had been summoned to appear before U.N. investigators. A Justice Ministry statement said Gen. Hamdan had made the appearance.

U.N. investigators searched the security chiefs’ homes, Mr. Saniora said.

The detentions were the first major police action since Mr. Hariri and 20 others were killed by a massive bomb in Beirut on Feb. 14. The three detainees have previously been questioned by Detlev Mehlis, the German prosecutor who is leading the U.N. Security Council-mandated investigation into the assassination.

The killing of Mr. Hariri, a billionaire businessman who was seen as quietly opposing Syria’s role in Lebanese affairs, provoked massive demonstrations that led to Damascus withdrawing its troops from Lebanon in late April, ending a 29-year military presence in the country.

Many Lebanese blamed Mr. Hariri’s assassination on Syria and pro-Syrian elements of their government. Syria and its Lebanese allies have denied any involvement.

Mr. Hariri, who was prime minister for 10 of the past 12 years, presided over Lebanon’s reconstruction after the 1975-90 civil war.

Mr. Mehlis met separately with the prime minister and justice minister yesterday. Lebanese security officials said former Justice Minister Adnan Addoum also had been summoned by investigators, but the ministry statement did not mention him.

Mr. Addoum and the three former security chiefs stepped down in April as calls mounted for their dismissal from Lebanese politicians opposed to Syria. Mr. Addoum was both prosecutor general and justice minister at the time of the Hariri assassination.

The three detained were: Maj. Gen. Jamil Sayyed, the former chief of General Security; Maj. Gen. Ali Hajj, the former director-general of the Internal Security Forces; and Brig. Gen. Raymond Azar, the former director-general of military intelligence.

According to the prime minister, Mr. Mehlis had said Nasser Qandil, a pro-Syrian former lawmaker, was wanted for questioning “as a suspect.”

Police failed to find Mr. Qandil when they went to his house early yesterday, but later in the day he returned from Syria and was met by police at the Masnaa border crossing.

Mr. Qandil said U.N. investigators had asked him to appear for questioning, but did not name him as a suspect.

Since Mr. Hariri’s killing, a series of smaller bombs have exploded in commercial centers and cars, killing several people, including two anti-Syrian activists.

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