A powerful car bomb which killed eight people in Beirut on Friday, was meant for Wissam Hassan, an important man from the security establishment who was linked with the 14 March coalition of Saad al-Hariri. Politicians like Hariri, and the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt accused Syria of being behind the attack. Al Hassan had been the target of assassination attempts before. His death led to protests in several places in Lebanon like Tripoli (his birthplace) and Beirut. Roads to Syria and to the airport were closed.
Who was Al-Hassan? Wissam al-Hassan was one of the most important security figures in Lebanon, Qifa Nabki writes on his blog. . 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.
Asa'ad al-Khalil (Angry Arab) adds that Al-Hasan has been tasked with Saudi intelligence of facilitating arming and funding of Free Syrian Army from Lebanon. His name has been linked with the ship, Lutfallah II, which was intercepted as it carried arms to Syrian rebels in Lebanon. This former bodyguard of Rafiq Hariri quickly rose in rank and became the head of a predominantly Sunni security apparatus (Shu`bat Al-Ma`lumat, or Intelligence Branch) which has received tens of millions in US covert funding. Hasan was first suspected in the Hariri assassination because he was absent that day and because he had long-standing ties with Syrian intelligence. He told the Hariri investigators that he was studying for an exam that day. Al-Khalil adds that Hasan's Intelligence branch also has been responsible for catching scores of Israeli spies and terrorists in Lebanon.