By Niall Green | 22 October 2012
Two bombings in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, have thrown the country into crisis, further exposing the danger that the civil war in Syria could spark a far wider conflagration throughout the region.
On Friday, a massive explosion in Beirut killed eight people, including a top Internal Security Forces officer, Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan. An estimated 78 people were injured in the blast, which hit a motorcade passing through a historic Christian neighborhood of the city.
A Lebanese security official told reporters that immediately prior to his killing, Hassan had returned from a visit to France and Germany. The car in which he was riding at the time of the attack was reportedly not armored, despite the obvious dangers associated with his position and the volatile state of Lebanese politics.
General al-Hassan headed an investigation this year that implicated a former minister in the Hezbollah-led government of Lebanon in an alleged plot with Syrian officials to carry out terrorist attacks inside the country. The minister implicated in al-Hassan’s investigation, Michel Samaha, is reported to have longstanding links with US, French and Syrian intelligence agencies. A former member of the fascist Phalangist movement during the Lebanese civil war, Samaha had in recent years formed an alliance with Hezbollah.
Several leading Lebanese politicians jumped to blame the government in neighboring Syria for the assassination. Saad al-Hariri, the leader of Lebanon’s main opposition bloc, accused the government in Damascus of being behind the killing of al-Hassan.