Risk Intel Report

Beirut bomb targets deputy PM

The attack on Defense Minister Elias Murr is the third attempt on the life of a Lebanese political personality since with the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, believed with little doubt to be the work of Syria . The assassination of Samir Qasseer , was also, with little room left for doubt, a Syrian job (WAR Report) and that of George Hawi is believed to be the work of pro-Syrian security forces . The attack on the life of Elias Murr, who survived the large car bomb intended for him, is much more of a mystery. A run through the usual suspects does not yield a strong argument for any one. First of all, the Syrian government would have little to gain by killing an ally, such as Murr. The MO for the assassination, a bulky 220-pound mass of TNT placed in car and detonated near Murr?s vehicle that killed 12 innocent bystanders and only slightly wounded Murr, looks nothing like the clean, precise, and sophisticated operations to kill Qasir and Hariri that used weapons-grade explosives and killed only one other person. Even Qasir?s passenger survived when the bomb that killed him went off under his car seat. One theory is that the Syrians did it this way on purpose, in order to deflect suspicion. It is speculated that Murr could have seen the writing on the wall: Syria was out, and his politics would have to change if he wanted to have a political future in the new Lebanon . Druze leader Walid Jumblatt speculates that Syria wanted to silence a man who may have been a witness to Syria?s execution of the Hariri murder. Another suspect is Hizbollah . Murr, a Christian, was a political rival to the Shia political organization turned terrorist group. However, Hizbollah is enjoying political power and enfranchisement in Lebanon, and there is little reason for it to turn to assassinations. Responsive to the opinions of its constituency, Hizbollah is trying to project an image of political legitimacy and demonstrate that its weapons are only to protect Lebanon from Israel . Such an assassination attempt does not fit with its current goals. Further, there is no indication that Murr would support an attempt to disarm the group; this would probably be the only reason Hizbollah might act in Lebanon at this time. A more likely suspect is Lebanon?s Salafi Islamist terrorist groups, who harbor al-Qaeda-like ideologies and who have assassinated people in the past. These groups include Jund al-Shem , which has claimed responsibility for three bombs detonated in Christian neighborhoods this spring, Asbat al-Ansar , and al-Qaeda in Lebanon . Elements loyal to Zarqawi?s network may also be responsible, as Murr was working to crack down on Islamists sending recruits, weapons, and money from Lebanon to the Iraq insurgency . Last year, Murr announced he had successfully dismantled one such smuggling ring. Last year also, he arrested Ismail Khatib, allegedly Zarqawi?s man in Lebanon who was in the country to recruit for the insurgency. Khatib died in prison after capture, provoking anti-torture riots in Lebanon. All of this is reason enough for such a group to go after the Defense Minister. There remains also the possibility of business feuds of intra-faction rivalries being behind the attempt. In 1985, Murr?s father survived an assassination attempt by a fellow Christian militia leader, Samir Geagea. Both Murr and his father are known to be up to their ears in corruption, kickbacks, and various business deals, as both have a reputation for being in politics only for the financial benefit. The assassination attempt, therefore, could have been an

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